Understanding Persistent Ethnicisation
Since 2001, accommodation over issues of minority education had initially improved, with the legalisation of Tetovo University, but soon deteriorated again due to problems with ethnic violence and segregation. The unsuccessful attempt to introduce compulsory Macedonian for Albanian students made the situation worse as the government failed to find an acceptable solution to address the need for better ethnic integration in schools. The outcome of ten years of education reforms is a system linguistically and ethnically divided and a set of political elites divided over the direction of future reforms.
At the formal institutional level, the cases show that power-sharing arrangements are a necessary pre-requisite for elite accommodation. Only after 2001 was the contentious issue of higher education in Albanian resolved, as the increased power of Albanian parties in executive coalitions made them an equal partner to the Macedonian parties in issues where double-majority voting applied. The introduction of double-majority, as a type of veto mechanism for the Albanian minority, increased the bargaining power of Albanian elites in government. The threat to withhold their support for a policy proposal provided sufficient cause for Macedonian elites to accommodate them. When Macedonian politicians tried to bypass power-sharing arrangements, as in the case of compulsory Macedonian, the policy failed. Albanian elites saw an attempt to rollback power-sharing and to revert to exclusionary politics, and even though the contents of the proposal were fundamentally non-problematic, they responded with strong resistance against it. However, the establishment of de-facto functional autonomy over education policy was not conducive to reaching a compromise and resolving the outstanding issues of minority education. The linguistic division in schools and universities led to ethnic segregation of the educational system, with Macedonians and Albanians managing separately each group's educational institutions. This led to the creation of exclusive policy areas, disinclining political elites from pursuing ethnic integration through education. Legacies of past discrimination exacerbated the resistance amongst Albanian elites and contributed to the failure to introduce
compulsory Macedonian in primary schools.
The two cases indicate that ten years of power-sharing politics were insufficient for political elites in Macedonia to accept power-sharing mechanisms and values as an integral part of the political system. Among the Macedonian politicians, some tried to introduce policy changes without double-majority voting in parliament, thus indicating a preference for pre-2001, majoritarian policy-making practices. Among the Albanians, memories of discrimination in Yugoslavia and pre-2001 Macedonia led to rejection of an otherwise acceptable proposal. These divergent perceptions of the underlying purpose and direction of the institutional set-up in Macedonia pose a serious challenge to overcoming ethnic tensions and divisions. They reveal how the rules of the political game are still being implicitly
renegotiated and political elites lack the normative unity to make the political
system stable and fully democratic.40
In addition to the lack of elite consensus on the rules and values of the political process, the ineffectiveness of power-sharing policies, even when implemented properly, to lead to to improved ethnic relations and de-ethnicisation of sensitive issues, is another major reason for the failure of ethnic accommodation in minority education. Although initial education reforms, such as TU legalisation, were successfully adopted and implemented, their outcomes led to greater divisions between ethnic groups and ethnic violence. As a result, minority education remains a sensitive issue, poisoning ethnic relations and raising nationalist passions and rhetoric. These findings provide support for arguments claiming that powersharing does not necessarily bring divided societies closer, but rather can further harden ethnic groups' boundaries by solidifying them into institutional frame.41
40 J. Higley, J. Pakulski and W. Wesolowski, Elite Change and Democratic Regimes in Eastern Europe (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998).
41 P.G. Roeder and T. Chapman, 'Partition as a Solution to Wars of Nationalism: Importance of Institutions', American Political Science Review, 101(4) (2007): 677–91; and P.G. Roeder, 'Peoples and States after 1989: The Political Costs of Incomplete National Revolutions', Slavic Review, 58 (1999): 854–82.