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News 14 Feb 17

‘Assassin’ Poster Causes Political Stir in Macedonia

A provocative poster for a TV documentary about an Ottoman-era revolutionary assassin has forced Macedonia’s ruling conservative party to deny that it is promoting violence against its opponents.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The party poster depicts a Skopje statue of Kjoseto holding a knife.

Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party has dismissed accusations that a poster for a state-funded historical documentary it issued over the weekend with the slogan "Sometimes with Politeness, Sometimes with a Knife" was actually a call for political violence against its opponents.

The slogan refers to the alleged formula for solving problems used by the controversial Ottoman-era Macedonian revolutionary Andon Lazov Kjoseto, who was also known to be an assassin working for the historic clandestine VMRO revolutionary organisation.

"This is a documentary about a revolutionary who fought for an independent and free Macedonia and history remembers him as such, not as an executioner, as some want to portray him," said Dimce Arsovski, a VMRO DPMNE spokesperson.

The party's youth branch in Skopje's municipality of Butel, which issued the poster, calling on its members to attend the premiere of the state-funded documentary about Kjoset, which was held on Sunday, was not available for comment.

The content of the poster, and its timing, when the conservative ruling party has been describing its opponents and critics as "foreign mercenaries" and "traitors", raised an eyebrows among opposition members and government critics.

After barely winning the December 11 elections, the VMRO DPMNE has struggled to form a new government and faces a real threat of losing power for the first time since 2006.

The NGO CIVIL - Center for Freedom, just one among many that condemned the poster, said that the ruling party was urging political violence.

"This is an open and direct call for extreme political violence, which is a criminal offence. The last call by the VMRO DPMNE youth for the 'movie screening' corresponds with the [recent] vocabulary of the ruling party," CIVIL said in a press release, calling on the police to take action.

The poster was also condemned by the main opposition SDSM party and several smaller political parties, including the opposition Party of Turks in Macedonia.

This was not the first time that the ruling party has implied dealing with so-called 'traitors' using the methods once used by revolutionary Andon Lazov Kjoseto.

At an electoral meeting for last year's December early general elections, VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski appeared to suggest that his main political rival, Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev, ought to be assassinated.

Addressing a party rally in the town of Delcevo, Gruevski claimed that if the leader of the Ottoman-era guerrilla organisation VMRO, Goce Delcev, were alive today, he would have sent one of his top revolutionaries to “end the story” with Zaev.

"If Delcev were alive today, he [Zaev] would not be able to even say hello to him. He would have been assigned only to [Andon Lazov] Kjoseto to end the story with this kind of man," Gruevski told the rally.

The new documentary portrays Kjoseto as an idealistic revolutionary who was sent by the historic VMRO leaders to kill people who were deemed traitors to their cause.

It ends with a conclusion that Kjoseto "will remain a symbol of Macedonian resistance as an example for future generations and as threat to all enemies and traitors to the Macedonian cause".

BIRN could not reach the public broadcaster, Macedonian Television, MRT, which produced the documentary, for comment, nor the author of the script, historian Nikola Zezov.

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