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October 17, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 160
Elections in Macedonia

To Reach Macedonia

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

Macedonia's pro-European orientation will be tested twice in the period of just a few days in Skoplje. The first time will be when the national soccer team faces Spain in a qualifier for the European championship. The second time will be on Sunday, October 16 at presidential and parliamentary elections, when President Kiro Gligorov and his Alliance for Macedonia (whose program boils down to the slogan ``Macedonia is our house and the European home is our home'') face political rivals in ``patriotic'' parties (``Macedonia for the Macedonians'') and ``more honest'' advocates of Macedonian national interests.

So while a soccer victory would be a miracle considering the strength and reputation of Spain, Gligorov stands a much greater chance of winning. It would really be a miracle if Gligorov does not beat his only rival, theater director Ljubisa Georgijevski, in the first round of the elections. A victory in the first round means over 650,000 votes in favor and all the polls so far have showed the President to have a great advantage over his rival which is constantly increasing.

The Skoplje Institute for Sociological and Political Research said 70.91% of the people they polled will vote for Gligorov and just 14.27% for Georgijevski.

Gligorov is an experienced politician, present in politics in both former Yugoslavia and Macedonia for some 50 years. He has been accused of many things over the past few months, but the accusations don't seem to have impressed most voters. Accusations of national betrayal were easily refuted with the results achieved by the authorities over the past four years: Macedonia left Yugoslavia without a single casualty, international recognition, survival sandwiched between two blockades (against the FRY and the one imposed by Greece).

In his last pre-election interview, Gligorov said he did not favor federalization (something he was accused of by Georgijevski) and that he does not intend to turn western Macedonia into a federal unit for the Albanians. Georgijevski, backed by the nationalist VMRO DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization), gave Gligorov ample opportunities for counteraccusations of being anti-European and seeking to create a Bosnia revisited. Georgijevski wants to cut the claws off of the Albanians now because he says they will proceed to demand more and more and urges a multinational anti-Albanian consensus. ``If I become President, no member of a national minority will be allowed to write Albanian under nationality in his passport,'' Georgijevski said recently. Many analyses say this statement increased the number of votes for Gligorov.

Gligorov consistently says Macedonia has to continue its policy of equidistance between its neighbors as a condition for good relations with them. Georgijevski promised a ``policy based upon active reciprocity,'' which some interpret as gradually stronger links with Bulgaria. VMRO DPMNE leaders say Gligorov has not achieved a rapprochement with any of the country's neighbors in four years and add that they would quickly resolve any disputes with Belgrade, Athens and Tirana.

The only thing the presidential candidates have in common is the fact that they have already made their choice of Prime Minister. Gligorov is going to keep Branko Crvenkovski and Georgijevski is going to give the government to Ljupco Georgijevski, leader of the VMRO-DPMNE. Some analysts feel this is wrong and could result in Gligorov being elected without the men he wants in his government.

Most of the latest polls show that the Alliance for Macedonia coalition (the Social Democrats, Liberal and Socialist parties) have the best ratings. Their goal is 61 seats in the 120 seat Sobranie (Parliament) to avoid any possible blockade of Parliament. The need to speed up the solution of problems in the Sobranie forced Gligorov to run for President as the coalition's candidate, instead of independently as many had expected.

The biggest unknown in Macedonia's parliamentary elections were the ethnic Albanian parties. On Friday, they decided to call upon Macedonia's Albanian population to vote in the elections. Abdurahman Alliti, leader of the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), recently said that they were very seriously considering a boycott since 145,000 less Albanians would be allowed to vote than in the elections four years ago. The authorities say that is the number of Albanians from Kosovo who have settled illegally in Macedonia and could not obtain citizenship or register as voters.

If they decide to take part in the elections, some Albanian leaders, including Alliti, said they would be a constructive opposition. If neither the Alliance for Macedonia nor the nationalist block win an absolute parliamentary majority, the Albanians parties will have an extremely powerful position and will be able to block every decision they dislike. Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader, is well aware of this and he said recently that, even if the Alliance for Macedonia wins an absolute majority, the only way to preserve the country's stability is to cooperate with the Albanians.

Crvenkovski also voiced what is probably the best description of the situation prior to the elections: ``Everything in Macedonia still seems fairly tender and none of the things that have been achieved are strong enough to prevent them from being brought down.''

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