Principle, Pragmatism and Political Capital: Assessing Macedonia's Leadership, 1992-2004
January 19, 2005
Staff-prepared summary of the EES discussion with Keith Brown, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Watson Institute, Brown University

Much has been written about prominent leaders in Macedonia regarding their ideologies, methods and personalities. Yet, there is another group of people in the political elite who are just as likely to influence policy as those in the top posts. Keith Brown refers to these people who operate between the government and the governed as ‘brokers.' His anthropologically-based study explored the influence of two such brokers?Ljube Boskovski and Arben Xhaferi?on the November 2004 referendum in Macedonia.

Boskovski was one of the authors of the first Macedonian constitution and served as Minister of the Interior between 1992 and 1995. He led a parallel career as a journalist, always stressing the importance of a strong civic state, institution-building and combating organized crime. Xhaferi has been a long-time Albanian activist and journalist. He was a member of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) until he was expelled from it in 1994 and with Menduh Thaci formed the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

Boskovski and Xhaferi are polar opposites in almost every way, except that both strongly believe that the Ohrid Agreement, which ended the 2001 inter-communal violence, was a failure. Both are activists and scholars, and are influential actors in their respective group. While there might be disagreement about the extent of their influence on Macedonan politics, Brown contends that it is important to focus on them because they represent constituencies that need to be won over by the international community.

The November referendum aimed at blocking the implementation of a redistricting law that reduces the number of municipalities from 123 to 84. The law was part of the Ohrid Agreement, which negotiated the cease-fire in Macedonia in 2001 and designed to give ethnic Albanians in Macedonia more power and influence at the local levels commensurate with their percentage of the population. The law creates multi-ethnic municipalities such that more municipalities have at least a 20 percent Albanian population, giving them legal minority status and all of the rights associated with it.

The international community strongly opposed the referendum, since it would undermine the Ohrid Agreement. European countries warned that voting for the referendum would be non-European behavior. In the US, Donald Rumsfeld commented that holding to Ohrid would be better for Macedonia. Moreover, after many years of side-stepping the issue, on the eve of the referendum the US endeavored to please Macedonian nationalists by formally recognizing the name of the Republic of Macedonia in an effort to "offer stability at a crucial point" and offering an inducement to continue on the path set by Ohrid.

Both Boskovski and Xhaferi campaigned for the referendum, though for different reasons. Ultimately the referendum failed due to low turnout: only 26 percent of eligible voters participated, far short of the 50 percent plus one required for referenda to pass. But it is telling that of those who voted, 98 percent voted to support it. This belies the weak public support for the Ohrid Agreement and thus the fragile peace that has been achieved in Macedonia.