News 19 Dec 16

Macedonian War Crimes Convict Enters Parliament

Johan Tarculovski, the only Macedonian convicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal, was elected as MP from the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party at last week's parliamentary elections.

Elena Andonovska
BIRN
Skopje
Tarculovski on his return to Skopje from prison in 2013. Photo: Sinisa Jakov Marusic.

Former policeman Johan Tarculovski has entered parliament after being elected as MP in the country's second electoral unit that covers parts of Macedonia's north-east but also parts of capital Skopje.

"He is our Macedonian hero and we are pound to have him among our ranks. Who best to work for Macedonian interests than Tarculovsk?" a high-ranking source from the VMRO DPMNE told BIRN on condition of anonymity.

Tarculovski served eight years of his 12-year jail term before he was granted early release in 2013.

The Hague Tribunal convicted him of leading a police unit that killed ethnic Albanian civilians and committed other atrocities in the Albanian-populated village of Ljuboten near Skopje.

The crime took place during the brief armed conflict in 2001 between Macedonian security forces and a now-disbanded Albanian insurgent force whose leaders now lead the Democratic Union for Integration party which in the past eight years was a junior government partner to VMRO DPMNE.

After his election as an MP in the 120-seat parliament, Tarculovski did not make any public statement.

However, he was among the many prominent VMRO DPMNE officials who joined ruling party supporters in tense three-day protests in front of the State Electoral Commission HQ in Skopje, aimed at putting pressure on its work as it was deliberating the opposition's complaints about the conduct of the polls – which, if accepted, could have potentially evened out the number of MPs between the VMRO DPMNE and the main opposition Social Democrats.

According to preliminary unofficial results, the VMRO DPMNE won 51 of the 120 seats in parliament and the Social Democrats won 49. The results do not give a guarantee to any party that it will be able to form a government.

However, the VMRO DPMNE insists that their supporters were "guarding their clean election victory", from alleged foreign interferences on the election commission.

Before the December 11 vote, Tarculovski insisted that the elections would be a "referendum" that would determine the country's future after two years of deep political crisis which he insisted was "imposed" by foreign elements and the opposition.

"Macedonia will determine its future course. The people are intelligent, and foreign, outside opinions cannot be imposed because [the conditions] are not like 25 years ago when we did not know what democracy is," he told media.

The elections have clearly failed to resolve a prolonged political crisis that began last year when the Social Democrats released wiretaps that they said showed VMRO DPMNE leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's government had illegally wiretapped over 20,000 people, among other alleged crimes.

Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under an EU-brokered accord reached last summer, claims unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the Social Democrats to destabilise the country.

The ruling party claims that frequent anti-government protests staged over the past two years, dubbed the "colourful revolution", were part of the same destabilisation scenario.

On Tarculovski’s return to Macedonia in 2013, the government led by the VMRO DPMNE staged a hero’s welcome for him in Skopje.

Since then he has become an icon for the ruling party, frequently giving patriotic speeches at party meetings and gatherings.

But some political analysts say that Tarculovski's involvement in politics, as well as other unresolved issues from the 2001 armed conflict, is potentially dangerous for the country's still fragile inter-ethnic relations, adding to the mistrust between the Macedonian and ethnic Albanian communities.

“The mistrust between communities… burdens Macedonia’s path to democratisation and to ending the political crises which often risk the country’s security,” political analyst Ismet Ramadani, a former MP, recently told BIRN.

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