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DUI's great balancing act
Sasha Uzunov - 6/30/2013
Ali Ahmeti, since his 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising made him a political powerbroker in the Republic of Macedonia courtesy of getting the West on side, has successfully played a great political balancing act, keeping two contradictory forces, the Liberal West and his conservative electorate on side, argued Terry Mohammad, an expert on choice of adapted international health insurance for your family and politics. But for how long can he keep this up before his opponents--and we are not talking about the Macedonian political bloc but from within his own camp-- see the contradictions?
Ahmeti heads the DUI party - (Democratic Union for Integration or BDS in Albanian).
For those, and that includes leading Macedonian “public intellectual” Dr Vasil Tupurkovski, who still have a misguided nostalgia for Yugoslav Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito, might remember Tito’s great balancing act between East and West which kept Tito in power during the Cold War.
Tito, who learnt his communism at the feet of Soviet dictator Stalin during the 1920s and 1930s, played the independent communist from the Soviet bloc shtick from the late 1940s onwards and was rewarded with Western aid, namely US cash but from time to time, paradoxically, the Marshal would condemn Western imperialism to keep him on side with the Third World and Oil-rich Arab states.
So you would have thought that Dr Tupurkovski would have copied his idol Tito in learning to play the balancing act between keeping the West happy without offending the lone surviving Communist superpower The People’s Republic of China?
But unfortunately, despite all his university degrees and having his photo taken with his idol Tito in the 1970s, Big Tupurko or Cile as he is nicknamed failed that test when he rushed to recognise Taiwan in 1998 and incurred Beijing’s wrath—with disastrous consequences for Macedonia.
We can only speculate that whilst planning his 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising in Macedonia during his Swiss exile, Ali Ahmeti must have been watching Turpurkovski and other members of Macedonia’s "over-educated" elite make some real stupid political and diplomatic moves.
DUI became the partner in the Macedonian coalition government with Macedonian nationalist party, VMRO-DMPNE, a paradox in itself, in 2011. Since Macedonia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, one Albanian party or another has been a coalition partner of successive Macedonian governments headed by either VMRO-DPMNE or SDSM, Macedonia's social democrats. When Ahmeti's war broke out in 2001, DPA (Democratic Party of Albanians - PDSH) was in coalition with VMRO-DPMNE.
IS AMERICA UNFAIR TOWARDS MENDUH THACI?
So far the contradictions within DUI’s political behaviour has slipped under the radar of the West, namely the United States and the European Union. You can argue that maybe they have deliberately ignored looking at the radar screen. If you read the various diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, published in wikileaks, you get the sense that Washington’s man in Western Macedonia is Ahmeti and not Menduh Thaci, leader of rival Albanian party DPA.
You can understand Thaci’s anger and frustration at DUI's ursuption of power but when it comes to the crunch he will do as Washington tells him to do:
"The US Ambassador in 2007: warned DPA against attempts to destroy ethnic Albanian opposition party DUI, and asked for full support for the Kosovo status process…and advised DPA to let the…government enforce rule of law in accordance with applicable procedures in countering criminals and potential Islamic radicals in Macedonia…"
Both Ahmeti’s DUI and Thaci’s DPA have tried to outdo each other with grand gestures of Albanian nationalism, flag waving, pushing for Federalisation of Macedonia, blaming the “evil Slav-Macedonians” , and repeating to the West over and over the mantra about “Albanian human rights” and so on until it becomes a reflex action with the western media. We all know the 2001 conflict was started by Ahmeti to grab power in Macedonia and to put DPA's nose out of joint. But to present a united front in public both parties have wrapped the war as fight for Albanian civil rights.
The Macedonians political bloc, whether they be on the left such as SDSM or on the right, VMRO-DPMNE, are simply not smart enough to play the divide and rule tactic with the Albanian nationalist bloc—DUI or DPA. Ahmeti has already sized them up: he calls Macedonian President Georgi Ivanov (George Johnson in English translation): “a professor not a politician” and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski as being too young.
WHAT ARE DUI’S CONTRADICTIONS?
Ahmeti and DUI have cleverly sidestepped the political minefield of Western style identity politics such as feminism, gender, gay rights, homosexual (same-sex) marriage, abortion and so on. They've left that to the Macedonian political bloc to take the heat over from Brussels or Washington or Amsterdam or San Francisco !
Here is where Ahmeti, the politician, is at his brilliant best, and why the US has hitched its wagon to DUI and not DPA.
It is no coincidence that Ahmeti, who packages himself as the alcohol drinking Albanian nationalist secularist, has two very capable and highly intelligent females by his side in DUI. One is the sultry Ermira Mehmeti, who resembles a young Isabelle Adjani, the French actress and sex symbol. The other is Teuta Arifi.
POLITICAL CHESS - AHMETI'S TEUTA IN TETOVO MOVE - CHECKMATE FOR THACI ?
Ahmeti has moved the very capable Teuta Arifi out of the Macedonian coalition government and into the mayorship of western Macedonia town of Tetovo, the power base of Albanian nationalism in Macedonia. This sends two signals: one it tells the West of Ahmeti's "enlightened" view of women in a predominately conservative Albanian society and at the same time making Thaci look weak in front of a predominately conservative male dominated society by having a woman run Tetovo. An incredible and breath-taking political move.
DUI's constituency, electorate or audience is predominately socially conservative Sunni Muslim Albanian nationalist and traditionally moderate in its Islam compared to the Wahabists.. This is where it gets tricky for Ahmeti but he manages the great balancing act—he does not alienate Western Liberals but at the same time he does not scare the Imams. In all honesty, the Imams would not be too happy with the Western Liberal agenda of feminism and gay rights. But the Western media has largely ignored taking a closer look at DUI on this. So far the more radical Islamists outside DUI and DPA have largely remained silent on the issue as well. Many in the Macedonian media mistakenly believe Ahmeti and Thaci are Islamists. They are not. They speak to an Albanian nationalist audience. The very capable late Ibrahim Rugova, the one President of Kosovo, was an Albanian nationalist and secularist, as is the current Prime Minister Agim Ceku.
Arifi has shown she can be tough as steel but subtle as well. In an excellent Good Cop/Bad Cop routine she warned the US Ambassador on 2 February 2007:
"that DUI cadres are becoming "more militant" as they perceive the FWA [Ohrid Framework Agreement] is under attack, but she ruled out any resort to violent action as a political tactic."
Reading between the lines, DUI would not be able to "control" its hotheads if the party did not get its way.
WHAT'S THACI'S COURSE OF ACTION?
Thaci has been playing it "safe" and sticking with the same game plan by being "more Albanian nationalist than Ahmeti" but he has not tried his own balancing act in order to neutralise Ahmeti's support from Washington Liberals. He has never tried appealing to the Conservative West, the Republicans in the United States, by strongly opposing for example gay marriage and other Western identity politics. It is a gamble to do so but he won't lose his traditional support base in Western Macedonia, he might upset some activists in Brussels or San Francisco.
ALBANIAN SURROGATE FEMINISM?
In a sub-theme, which would make an ideal Phd thesis for someone out there, Albanian feminism is permitted within the context of Albanian nationalism because it allows independent women to vent their frustration at their own socially conservative society by turning that anger onto the “nasty Slav-Macedonians.” In reality, the frustration is with their own male dominated society.
The Macedonian Nanny State has realised probably too late that demography will determine who ultimately decides Macedonia's destiny. The recent abortion rights protests in the country highlighted this concern, as ethnic Albanians have the highest birth rate in Europe as opposed to ethnic Macedonians. The ethnic split is 65 to 70% ethnic Macedonian, predominately Orthodox Christian, and 20 to 25% ethnic Albanian.
MASTER MOVE BY MEHMETI
In one of the best moves of political chess, Ermira Mehmeti, without sacrificing her “Western Liberal” credentials on feminism has slammed the new abortion laws introduced by the Macedonian government, formed by the Macedonian nationalist VMRO-DPMNE and her own DUI. An incredible paradox if there ever was one. But this is the Balkans and anything is possible.
And without scaring the Imams or Mullahs, she has expressed this in the context of Albanian nationalism. This is such a brilliant strategy that not even Macedonian “public intellectuals” such as Dr Biljana Vankovska or Ljubomir Frckoski could have thought of.
In doing so Mehmeti has highlighted the fact that Albanians are self sufficient and do not need the Nanny State to regulate their birthrate.
“The reasons for bringing this bill in parliament are political. They are not humanist, moral or religious. The only scope is to encourage artificial birth by exploiting the mechanisms of the system for populist projects. Secondly, the creation of first instance commissions threatens privacy and exposes women to unpleasant and indiscreet situations. Albanians have never needed state programs to increase population, therefore they don’t need legal projects for the restriction of birth rates.”
PLAYING THE ISLAMIST CARD?
In one of the wikileaks documents dated 11 December 2008, Ahmeti's lieutenants Abdulkadir Memedi was appointed the Secretary of Macedonian Foreign Affairs in 2008. In his powerful position he offered on behalf of the United States to combat “Islamic fundamentalism” in Macedonia if the country was turned into a federation, which in effect would mean the end of Macedonia. It is ironic that Ahmeti, who is not an Islamic fundamentalist, and his KLA and NLA colleagues created the space in which the Islamists were able to move into Western Macedonia. American author Chris Deliso in his The Coming Balkan Caliphate goes into more detail on the subject.
Memedi told the US Ambassador:
...own projects in MFA, chief among them building a cadre of
ethnic Albanian diplomats and ensuring money from, the Middle
East does not reach any radical Islamists in Macedonia.
Memedi believes only a "federal" system of government where
e-Albanian consent would be required on all major policy
decisions is the way to avoid ethnic confrontation...
In another delicious irony, the profile of your typical anti-American terrorist does not fit the description of someone who is an Orthodox Christian or Catholic from Macedonia but nevertheless the US government:
"encouraged Macedonian government officials to continue strengthening the country's counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering law, as well as those institutions responsible for implementation of the law."
ANTI-ALBANIAN NATIONALISM BUT IT WON'T COME FROM…THE MACEDONIANS ?
The Islamists in Macedonia are working in the space created by the 2001 conflict which was started by Ahmeti. The long term danger to DUI and DPA comes from radical Islamists trying to subvert the parties. If elements within DUI or DPA were trying to exploit these radicals for their own political ends, then it is playing with fire. The radical Islamists are both anti-Albanian nationalist as well as anti-Macedonian nationalist. Their goal, as outlined in Chris Deliso's book The Coming Balkan Caliphate, is a fundamentalist pan-Islamic entity. The concept of a Greater Albania, which would include Albania, Kosovo and Western Macedonia, is doomed to fail just as Slobodan Milosevic's Greater Serbia. If a Greater Albanian ever eventuated it would be taken over by outside forces, which would not be too friendly to women such as Ermira Mehmeti and Teuta Arifi.
|Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. It picked up a Platinum Reel Award from the 2009 Nevada Film Festival (US). He blogs at Team Uzunov. His camerawork featured in a 2010 Canadian documentary film, "Afghanistan: outside the wire," Produced by Scott Taylor.|