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Home arrow Political science arrow After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Effects of Federal Power-sharing

During the last fifteen years in the Yugoslav federation, Macedonian political elites took part in ethnic power-sharing through the federal institutions described in the previous chapter. The voting rules in the two houses of federal parliament gave Macedonian deputies veto power and therefore equal power to shape the agenda and influence the policy outcomes of the legislative process, despite their numerical inferiority. Moreover, the Communist Party of Macedonia had functioned as a separate chapter of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, which allowed Macedonian political elites to elect their own Communist leadership, albeit that the Macedonian party did not enjoy much ideological and political freedom from Belgrade.

The federal power-sharing structure of Yugoslavia enabled political elites in Macedonia to successfully interact with politicians from other Yugoslav republics through the existing institutional mechanisms. In practice, this gave them a direct insight into the effects of power-sharing in politics – whether it meant resolving or failing to resolve outstanding conflicts and addressing sensitive policy issues. This experience, though not directly used in designing the political system after independence in 1991, was not forgotten. When in 2001 Macedonian politicians were negotiating constitutional reforms to allow ethnic Albanians greater purchase in the country's politics, power-sharing ideas were reintroduced. Though it was mostly ethnic Macedonians who represented the republic at the federal level, a few ethnic Albanians and Turks were also included, exposing them to working of ethno-federal institutions.

Unlike in Bosnia, Macedonian politicians did not replicate federal powersharing arrangements at the republican level. Perhaps the only federal provision that was accepted among the republican elites in Macedonia was greater ethnic representation in republican institutions, following state constitutional provisions. Ethnic Albanians and Turks were sometimes included in the republican government and institutions in a bid to increase national representativeness of Macedonian institutions. The 1974 Constitution explicitly mentioned 'equitable representation of republics and appropriate representation of autonomous provinces' when appointing members of the Executive Council, further emphasising the need for 'attention to the national composition' of the federal cabinet.5 Thus not

5 'Deo Četvrti: Organizacija federacije', Član 348. In Ustav SFRJ [Part Four: Federal Organization. Article 348. Constitution of SFRY.] (Službeni vesnik: Beograd, 1974). only did the Constitution confirm the principle of proportionality and equitable representation as a power-sharing tool when appointing government officials, but it also distinguished between the nationality and republican origin of single members, paying additional attention to ensure that minorities (or nationalities) within republics were also represented at the federal level. Although the federal government was responsible for implementing only federal policies, a portfolio much thinner after the adoption of the 1974 Constitution, some republican governments also adopted such principles when appointing their governments to reflect the ethnic composition of their population.

Republican parliaments, including Macedonia's Assembly, on the other hand worked on a majoritarian principle and were much more efficient in passing legislation than the federal parliament. Since 1974 republican parliaments' legislative powers had been expanding.6 These parliaments adopted the republics' Constitutions, passed legislation in accordance with these and appointed the republic's executive council. Overall, in most respects republics resembled proper sovereign states, including the right to borrow abroad and provide security through the republican police. Federal institutions were used as forums for discussions and bargaining between republics' party elites.

Naturally, the single most important actor, both on federal and republican levels, was the Communist Party, or the League of Communist Parties (SKJ), at whose regular congresses the most important political questions were resolved. It was behind the curtains of the SKJ that any outstanding problems between the ethnic groups were resolved, as the official stance of the Yugoslav leadership was that there were no ethnic problems in Yugoslavia. Although often called the glue that held Yugoslavia together, the SKJ was exactly what its name suggested – a league, not a unified organisation. It was composed of the republican communist parties and until 1980 led by Tito as the Secretary General. The decentralised nature of the Yugoslav Communist Party was a distinct feature of Yugoslav communism, one that some attribute to the early stance that Tito took vis-à-vis Stalin concerning the right of every communist party to pursue its own course within the country, replicated on national level with respect to the constituent units of the Yugoslav federation.7 However, regardless of the motivation behind it, the SKJ was decentralised to the extent that even Tito sometimes had difficulties exerting full control over it, as the examples of the liberal economists of the 1960s and the Croatian Spring of 1971 show. He did remove the liberal reformists and Croatian nationalists from power, but also had to compromise by offering increased power and resources to republics and republics' party elites.8

6 Vojin Dimitrijević, 'The 1974 Constitution and Constitutional Process as a Factor

in the Collapse of Yugoslavia', in Yugoslavia: the Former and Future, ed. P. Akhavan and

R. Howse (Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 1995).

7 Dejan Jović, 'Yugoslavism and Yugoslav Communism', in Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed idea, 1918–1992 (London: Hurst and Co., 2003); Dimitrijević, Ibid.

8 Rusinow, 'Re-opening of the National Question'. Although social life in Yugoslavia was dominated by the Communist Party, and this was also the case in Macedonia with the Communist Party of Macedonia, the relatively lax nature of Yugoslav communism allowed the creation of alternative social identities. Professional and local associations existed across the country and over the years that enabled the creation of group identities and interests that were not based exclusively on ideological or ethnic grounds. However, data from the late 1980s suggests that in Macedonia tolerance towards other ethnic groups was among the lowest in Yugoslavia.9 Both among ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, tolerance towards others was lower than the national average and significantly lower than in Bosnia. Partly due to the language barrier, as Macedonian and Albanian language are not mutually intelligible, and partly due to the slower modernisation and urbanisation processes in the republic,10 four decades of living together in the Yugoslav federation did not appear to have helped the development of cross-cutting social identities in Macedonia. Rather, social distance and mutual distrust seem not to have significantly decreased over the period before 1990.

In summary, the period prior to 1991, before Macedonia declared independence, was marked by increasing decentralisation of the Yugoslav federation and growing powers for republican elites. This allowed Macedonian politicians to strengthen their grip on political power in the republic but at the same time exposed them to the federal power-sharing institutions, providing them with insight into the functioning of ethno-federal arrangements. Nonetheless, at the republican level almost none of the federal-level principles of sharing political power were adopted by domestic political elites. With the exception of increased representation of ethnic Albanians and Turks in republican institutions, virtually no other powersharing mechanism was adopted. Ethnic tolerance and cross-cutting identities were weak in comparison to those in other Yugoslav republics. This, along with the insistence on majoritarian politics at the republic level and the dislocation of political decision-making from formal institutions to the congresses and informal meetings of the Communist Party meant that despite the power-sharing outlook of political institutions in Yugoslavia, political elites had only limited knowledge of how to accommodate each other on sensitive issues across ethnic lines.

9  Hodson et al., 'National Tolerance in the former Yugoslavia'.

10 Macedonia was the poorest and least developed republic in Yugoslavia. Macedonia was the second highest recipient of federal transfer funds after Kosovo between 1980 and 1989: 20.9 per cent of federal disbursed funds went to Macedonia between 1980 and 1985 and 14.5 per cent between 1985 and 1989. Data from Statistical Yearbook of Yugoslavia, 1989 (Federal Office for Statistics, 1989).


 
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