From Contestation towards Accommodation
Decentralisation reforms suggest that power-sharing institutions helped ethnic accommodation by increasing agenda setting powers of minorities and encouraging intra-coalition compromise. Although a grand coalition is often seen as the best means for reaching political consensus,34 the case above shows that accommodation within the 'national unity' government until September 2002 was more difficult than in the next cabinet which featured only two parties. The SDSM and DUI had harmonised their attitudes on sensitive issues before initiating the reforms, while reaching an agreement in the wider coalition, which had no common programme beyond ending the ethnic violence, proved more difficult. Moreover, in the 'national unity' cabinet parties were divided in their support for proposed reform along ethnic lines and there was no intra-group government vs. opposition contestation, which made the ethnic cleavage more salient. However, having Albanian and Macedonian parties both in government and opposition prevented government-opposition competition from running along ethnic lines, instead displacing contestation inside each ethnic group. Intra-group competition
32 OSCE, Decentralisation Survey 2009.
33 Gordana Milošević-Jurukovska, 'Inter-Municipal Cooperation: Macedonian Case' at Skopje Workshop 2009. UNDP and CoE Inter-Municipal Cooperation Project. Available at: municipal-cooperation.org/images/8/8c/Presentation_Skopje_Workshop_ UNDP_FYROM_2009.pdf (accessed 5 November 2013).
The influence of external actors in the adoption of both laws was substantial. International representatives in Macedonia used conditionality to elicit greater accommodation between Macedonian and Albanian political elites. Linking the adoption of Law on local self-government to holding a donors' conference and the adoption of Law on territorial organisation to progress with EU integration provided external actors with carrots to reward or withhold depending on the domestic elites' behaviour. This resulted in compliance from domestic politicians and the population (the majority of which did not vote on the referendum), which eventually led to adoption of the proposed reform. Although conditionality was an effective tool and led to results desired by external actors, its extensive use may lead to domestic politicians expecting additional rewards every time they behave in accommodating manner. By taking the value off accommodation and compromise in their own right, and replacing it with external rewards, the logic of power-sharing can be undermined and lead to extended external involvement in domestic politics.
Finally, this case shows that attempts at informal accommodating practices outside the legislative and executive institutions were present from the very beginning of power-sharing in 2002. When law adoption was blocked in parliament, Albanian political parties did not refer it to the Inter Ethnic Council in parliament, but called for informal leaders' meetings at which to resolve problems with the proposal. Reflecting on the successful Ohrid negotiations in 2001, where party leaders and international representatives came to an agreement that official institutions could not produce, Albanian political elites showed a preference for this mode of resolving problematic issues. Given the lack of prior agreement on the issue between coalition members, the double-majority requirement was causing delays and blocking the policy process, so arriving at an acceptable compromise outside the public domain and formal institutional structure appeared as an attractive alternative to complicated parliamentary procedures.