Today as citizens of Macedonia we face a new reality. A reality in which rigged elections, laundered money, jailed dissidents, death threats against journalists, and the blending of party and state are the norm. This new reality is evidence of a failed democracy in which the credibility of all state institutions is eroding with every wiretapping ‘bomb’ that the opposition, SDSM, drops. As the opposition continues to strike against the ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, with further allegations of corruption an important question comes to mind. Where do I, the average Macedonian citizen, fit into this new reality? I would like to take the time to answer this question because it is fundamental to the future of Macedonia.
The short answer to this question is this—you and I, average citizens of Macedonia regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, party affiliation, or any other divider, you and I are the answer to the crisis that Macedonia is confronted with. We as citizens have an obligation, a responsibility, to hold those who have illegitimately usurped power accountable for their actions. We have a duty to say “enough is enough” and call on the current government, led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his VMRO-DPMNE party, to resign from their posts and be held accountable for their actions. Actions that are undemocratic, corrupt, and fundamentally in opposition to the values espoused by most Macedonian citizens. The famous street artist Banksy once painted “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful- we don’t remain neutral”. That is why you and I, in this case the powerless, must side with one another, because if we don’t then we inevitably side with the powerful and do not remain neutral.
The long answer to this question is that, if we as citizens seek to be the answer to this crisis, then we must take action. We aren’t as powerless as we may think. In fact, I would argue that we as citizens are the most powerful force that can help Macedonia return to its path of democracy and integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. How you may ask? The answer to that lies in a quote from the American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr from his 1968 “The Trumpet of Conscience”:
“There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or, when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed. … Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved. Massive civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”
We the citizens of Macedonia need to be the ambulance drivers and firefighters that speed ahead to address our emergency until it is solved. When the time is right we must come out in the streets and peacefully demand that our democratic rights, rights ensured by the constitution, are respected.
All of us, from the students and contract workers to the various plenums, citizens movements, NGOs, and associations must jointly stand in unison and retake our country from the hands of this illegitimate regime. In order to do this we must form a citizens coalition comprised of all the aforementioned groups that have actively voiced their frustration with the injustices of the regime. This citizens coalition must actively organize protests, stage sit-ins, occupy public buildings, and engage in other acts of civil disobedience because only through such methods will the voice of Macedonia’s citizens, our voice, be heard. Out in the streets we must call on the government to resign, we must ask the international community (the United States and the European Union in particular) to assist us in transparently investigating all of the wiretappings and allegations so that the truth may prevail, and finally we must seek to establish an interim government so that experts can help us establish democratic and functioning state institutions.
This interim government should be comprised of Macedonian citizens who are largely unaffiliated with political parties (VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DUI, DPA,etc.) and are experts in their respective fields. These technocrats will be given Ministerial positions and charged with the task of restoring the transparency and functionality of all state institutions. The duties of this interim government will involve the removal of corrupt officials from all ministries and institutions, the appointment of other experts to fill their positions, and the gradual preparation for new democratic elections. This expert-led interim government will guide state institutions for not just a few months, but a span of about two to three years so that all the wiretappings can be investigated and any criminally implicated persons be dealt with for their crimes. These two to three years will also allow for Macedonian society to depoliticize and “departify” in turn allowing us to focus on necessary improvements to the economy, education system, environmental challenges, and many others. In the end we must all take a role as citizens in the rebuilding of democracy in Macedonia.