News 17 Oct 12

Macedonia Albanians Vow to Foil Army Law

The Macedonian government's ethnic Albanian junior partner says it will foil any attempts by the main ruling party to get the controversial army law passed through a shortened procedure.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Memorial to the fallen members of the armed forces in Skopje

The stalemate over the draft law concerning the rights of members of the armed forces who fought in the 2001 conflict, and their families, continues in Macedonia’s parliament.

“We will not give up because the law does not satisfy the needs of all citizens”, said Talat Xhaferi, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, legislator whose long speeches in parliament have already stalled the bill for a month-and-a-half.

The law has angered ethnic Albanian parties, which either want the same rights extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters in the 2001 conflict, or the bill dropped altogether.

This week, the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party withdrew the bill from parliament and then immediately re-submitted it, but now as an urgent law that requires a shortened procedure, and a time limit on the length of parliamentary speeches.

“We were patient enough… and we hope that reason will prevail and that the bill will pass,” explained VMRO DPMNE legislator Vele Gjorgievski.

But the DUI announced a change of tactics as well. They now plan to overwhelm parliament with some 5,000 amendments that will block the passage of the law, even with a shortened procedure.

By exploiting a procedural loophole, which means there is no time limit on the length of a speech made in relation to draft legislation, DUI’s Xhaferi has managed to filibuster the law for over a month.

His fellow parliamentarians have so far been forced to listen to him reading poetry, reciting foreign literature and reports on Macedonia, mumbling or simply remaining silent, waiting for the time to pass.

The draft law has been at the centre of a dispute between the coalition partners.

After initially threatening to leave the government over the law, the DUI in mid-September stepped back from their threat, concluding at a party meeting that they should stay in the government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, at least for now.

“This law could potentially break up the government coalition,” says Jove Kekenovski, a political analyst and an expert on the right-wing Macedonian parties.

He sees the latest  manoeuvres by both parties as an attempt to “buy time until they find a suitable date to disband the parliament and call  early elections”, possibly before year’s end. This would mean a general election in March 2013, at the same time as the scheduled local elections.

On Monday, the DUI leader Ali Ahmeti mentioned the law at his meeting with the European Commission's Director General for Enlargement, Stefano Sannino.

“Big issues need to be solved through consensus… We need equal treatment for all sides in the 2001 conflict and only then can there be  a successful outcome,” Ahmeti told a press on Monday after his meeting with Sannino.

In 2001, Macedonia suffered a brief but violent armed conflict between government forces and Albanian fighters, which ended with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord.

The Albanians disbanded their guerrilla force in exchange for more legal rights in Macedonia. Many of its members later formed the DUI.



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