IN THE DARK TUNNEL OF DESPAIR AND POPULISM
The foggy visibility of integration can produce electoral battles out of the realistic citizen’s expectations. The fragility of the European perspective that comes from not opening negotiations can stimulate a sharp dose of populism. Now through side events the political parties have already started their early campaign. A new political energy that would strengthen the Euro-Atlantic aspiration remains more than necessary.
Author: Bardhyl Zaimi
Election periods usually display a moment of political sensitivity and articulation. Elections are the best instrument for the functioning of democracy. Political plurality makes sense in the election race in the form of electoral options. In elections, the ruling parties are accountable for their government, while the opposition parties offer their own concept different from the previous one. The election campaign remains a set of political ideas and concepts aimed at the will of the majority of the electorate that subsequently produces governance for the next mandate.
Election campaigns have already begun in North Macedonia through party events that serve to “wake” membership and party supporters. This is a motivation and inspirational prologue through side events that are really part of the early campaign. All political parties have already started switching on their engines of mobilization, displaying a possible victory in an election expected on April 12th.
Election campaigns except that they can provide political essences, often offer “midrange” party quarrels. Sometimes these vain “quarrels” triumph over real and modern political articulations. Parties are usually dropped to irrational promises rather than in concrete political visions that may produce a different quality of representation and social prosperity. However, this remains their decision in defining electoral strategies, while the context of general despair imposes far more substantial articulations in relation to tired citizens from all the things.
North Macedonia in these elections is also in an extremely fragile geopolitical context that imposes a more responsible and in-synchronized election campaign in spite of the disappointment of citizens, other potential impacts on the region resulting from the unexplained status quo to the end served by the EU under the influence of the French veto.
This election campaign, besides the usual themes of mobilization on the ethnic terrain, will need to politically articulate this state of political numbness that any winning party, namely the ruling coalition, will face. This context is determined by complex factors within the EU that are not known how they are going to be coordinated in the future.
North Macedonia, as well as other countries of the Western Balkans, are now in a state of hopeless despair, in a state of eagerness that is a consequence of a typical European contingency over the enlargement process.
In addition, the “No” for North Macedonia and Albania is not just a capricious French decision embodied in President Macron’s image that demands protagonism on the European stage. The ‘No’ opposed by Germany and other member states goes much deeper into the European being, in all its internal vision, but also in its vision of the Western Balkans highlighted through the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit and the Berlin’s Process.
There are a series of meetings, documents and engagements that, through a coherent projection, have created the great hope of including Western Balkan countries in the EU agenda, primarily as standardization with European practices, investment in all areas, but also in alignment with the good governance that the European concept implies.
The European Council’s latest decision to delay the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania goes beyond the usual expectations for another summit, because in all the debate that is taking place at the European level dictated by France also reveals deeper issues within the European Union that still do not know how they will be bred, when and what epilogue will they receive. This unpredictable context for the “strength” of the Balkan countries has created a “frightening” vacuum that is already being displayed by international representatives and media.
These days in a longer report on the French “No” and the general despair in the Western Balkans at the BBC, among others it is said that “the EU mess also sent a gloomy message to the whole Balkans”. Over this confusion created by the French veto has already been written by almost all media of international relevance, stressing the possibility of other influences in the Western Balkans. It is already clear that this “No” remains too complicated to decoded as justification or to be corrected in the short term.
However, within this context, with many unknowns and many implications related to the future of the EU, they must extend their aspiration to open accession negotiations and accession to the Balkan countries. A broad context that creates impatience, numbness, and often despair. All these sentiments remain present at a time when Europe seems to be revising its own functioning concept, especially after Brexit and after reassessments of the enlargement process.
In these conditions the Western Balkan countries should work, which have already displayed their pro-European orientation. However, this seems to be just the rhetorical side of this visibility that is constantly clouded by the protagonists who use this whole EU rapprochement with the Western Balkans to sophistically promote skepticism and an anti-European spirit. This blurry picture enables them to latently “preach” geostrategic reviews.
The situation becomes even more complicated at a time when all political actors in the election period are more focused on potential victories, while all the energy is precisely spent in the battles that can make no sense unless they are in the integration coordinates.
Pre-election periods have repeatedly been used for rehabilitation of power abusers no matter what time these abuses took place. This entire context actually enables parties in this pre-election period to concentrate more on their victory agendas, which is very normal, and very little to care for a process that requires new energy to be in harmony with European developments.
During this time, many things will probably be forgotten related to proclamations for European integration, while the energies will focus on topics that awaken the momentum of the electorate. These elections are likely to be highly unpredictable because of the immense apathy of the people. The upcoming elections will be a test for North Macedonia on its European path.
Despite all these complications, disappointments, and instantaneous euphoria, one thing remains certain that this pre-election period must not avoid the citizen’s ambition to be part of European values and standards. The elections will have to confirm this orientation to all political parties. The more the parties are conceptually bound to this imperative it will be closer to the hope of the citizens for European governance practices. The dark transition tunnel has created many cracks, many weaknesses, many deprivations, but has essentially preserved the European aspiration of all citizens.
There will always be other geostrategic offers, such as that of Russia’s permanent representative to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, during the Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona, Italy on Friday, which invited North Macedonia and Albania to join the economic union. Despite the recent cramp created in EU-Western Balkans report, now by senior European officials have already indicated that European commitments to the region will continue, excluding the possibility of a “special partnership” as the idea has recently circulated in the opinion here.
In many electoral cycles in North Macedonia, parties have played with the populism as a mobilizing dimension. Focusing only on this dimension during the campaign, many tangible topics have remained untreated and unarticulated in the perspective of European developments. Even at this pre-election stage, such trends are observed in all parties. However, it seems one thing remains certain that in this election, populism is unlikely to mobilize especially the apathetic electorate, which is growing from one election cycle to another.
At last perhaps all political actors will be convinced that despite this geopolitical context, changes, reforms and the installation of a genuine value system must be made for citizens who have already internalized the European vision in their expectation. This moment requires a European political mindset that does not stumble on skepticism, but rather deepens the concept of European values and standards despite the turmoil that may emerge.