Monday, 29 September 2014 00:00

The discrepancy between the exercises of the political and financial power: Roma political parties in Macedonia

Written by  Albert Memeti and Nadire Redjepi
Rate this item
(9 votes)

The relationship between money and politics is inevitable, widespread and probably endless. In this regard, such a relationship is logical given the fact that political parties need money to participate in politics and maintain cohesion among the party members. The position of holding the power in the society that is given to the political parties, demands also a certain extent of responsibility and accountability towards its constituency (Carey & Reynolds, 2007). Therefore, the way in which political finances affect the relationship of political parties, and their members, constituents and the general public is essential for the quality of democracy functioning (Burnell, 1998). As such, political finances sustain and enhance the political debate and stimulate the internal democracy within the party.

In this context, the political parties in Macedonia follow the well-known pattern between money and politics - access to political power facilitates access to money, and access to money buys political influence. Frequently, governing parties use the administrative resources—state powers and funds in “rewarding allies” and “punishing opponents”. Until now, the political battle in Macedonia is between the two biggest Macedonian and Albanian parties. The other small parties (including the Roma ones) are the “outside players”, usually joining the coalition government. It follows that the small political parties are just illustrative marionettes of the bigger parties, even though they can be a game changer during the elections (local or presidential). Although the small political parties manifest monopolistic power within the party (all the power is in the arms of the leader) they do not know to use their power or are limited in practicing it within the coalition government.

Regarding the role and responsibility of the Roma parties in the current coalition government in Macedonia, this analysis indicates the imbalance between the exercises of their political power given the financial opportunities. In other words, this means that Roma political parties take the legitimacy from the Roma electorate while the roles and responsibilities are delegated by the coalition parties in the government. Hence, it appears that the "greater responsibility" of Roma political parties and the weak financial power results in reduced credibility in the Roma community. In the case of the Roma political parties, promises are determined by the major coalition partners and serve their interests. These developments point out that Roma political parties have post – election agreements for sharing the financial "cake” after the election. However, typically the position of political parties is determined from the costs-benefit logic, calculation the future benefits (power, authority, positions in public administration, public policies) with their costs (administration, political campaigns)

Therefore, in this analysis we argue that party financing has a crucial role in the internal democratization of the Roma political parties and contributes to better practice of their power in the coalition government. Furthermore, this analysis provides an analytical framework through which party finance can be analyzed and propose strategies for financing the Roma political parties.

Analytical framework

The recent happening in the political arena in Europe validate the “democratic dissatisfaction” characterized by increasing mistrust of political institutions, decline in traditional forms of political participation (voting, party membership) and greater distance between political leaders and the citizens they purport to represent (Hopkin, 2004). The last five years are marked by a wave of corruptions scandals related to party financing in the Balkans, but also in the “western” democracies including Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, France and Belgium. These scandals put forward that the topic of funding the political parties is essential for gaining the trust of the constituency, which is one of the essential pillars of democracy.

As political scientists argue, the field of party financing is under-theorized, and empirical research in the field is scarce. Though, Hopkins (2004) provide a framework for analyzing the party finances based on the typology of the parties - mass party, clientelistic mass party; elite party and cartel party. Accordingly, based on the typology of the party can be derived different strategies (models) of funding. The following scheme allows to analyze the party features of different types of political party and their model of financing.

                     Figure 1: Analytical Framework (adapted from J.Hopking, 2004)

However, political parties in the practical aspect cannot be always clearly categorized in one of the typologies. Additional factor that contributes to it is also a growing literature on the political parties’ typologies, which makes almost impossible to characterize one political party under one category. Therefore, besides its limits, this framework helps to understand the characteristics of the parties and the funding strategies that political parties use.

In the political context of Macedonia, the parties use mix strategy of funding, heavily relying on the state resources. The following part evaluates the party finance in Macedonia and evaluates the strategy used by the Roma political parties


Party financing in Macedonia

According to the Law of political parties, the sources of the political parties are divided into two categories: public and private. The public sources of the parties generally come from the state budget, while the private from membership fees, donations, gifts, contributions, sponsorships and services.[3] As it can be seen from the figure below, the public funding is allocated according to the percentage of the gained votes and the numbers of seats in the parliament. Consequently, the biggest political parties[4] are the main users of the budget sources due to the fact that they can attract large electorate and gain most of the parliamentary seats, which allows them to have expensive campaigns. On the other hand, the smaller political parties, including the Roma parties, often make coalition with the big political parties in order to be in position, and accordingly the received funds are very small.The Private sources of the political finances follow the same "pattern”. The big political parties in Macedonia - active in the political arena for 20 years - are the main actors in policy making with well-developed network of funding, which is based on donations, membership fees, sponsorships and services. Applying the above framework, they have a characteristics of clientelistic and elitist parties. Clientelistic, due to the patron-client relationship with its constituency through the public administration channel and delivery of public goods. Moreover, elite, because of the close relationship with the business networks (chambers); media and wealthy individuals. From the others side, the small political parties rely very little on the private sources – only small fraction from services and sponsorships. The absence of stable party finances make their political power negligible, and their position in the coalition government depends on the major political parties. They are prime examples of mass clientelistic parties.

Party sources

The figure above indicates that Roma political parties, which fall into the category of small parties, do not have developed network of funding. From the analysis of the annual reports, one can observe that the Roma political parties often rely on services provided by the Roma TV - BTR ("inclined" to Amdi Bajram – the current Roma MP ) and TV Shutel (owned by Nezdet Mustafa – the Minister without portfolio); as well as minor sponsorships received from local businessmen.

One of the hypotheses to explain is that the Roma parties do not know about the funding opportunities. Supporting this thesis and adapting it to the Roma political parties, would mean  that the party leaders are "ignorant",  and they do not have the capacity/ skills to attract financial sources. As a result, the parties rely on alternative ways: personal funds received from the party leaders; "loans" from banks' or the so-called "Bank of services"- trading service for service - "employment in the public administration" with "money contribution for the party". In this respect, the Roma political parties have a characteristics of clientelistic mass party due to the patron - client relation which is based on the economic/ material exchange. This model  provides the leaders with a monopolistic power to control his patrons and to obey with the politics they promote.

The second hypothesis is that the Roma political parties "do not want" to use the given financial opportunities. According to Jonathan Hopkin, Professor of Business at the University of London, the diversification of the funding sources contributes to democratic governance through greater transparency and accountability of party members. In addition, he argues that the party will be less depending on the party leader, especially in the smaller political parties, and there would be less opportunity for "manipulation" with the votes. Consequently, if the Roma parties are funded from private sources they would significantly change the structure of the party and improve the practice of internal democracy within the party. Obviously this suits the political parties and goes contrary to the interests of the Roma political leaders,  because they do not want to lose their power and control over the party members. This hypothesis indicates that progressive changes are not desirable due to the fact that greater emancipation of the constituency will lead to changes in their political preferences. 

Both hypotheses indicate the weak financial strength of Roma political parties that dictate their operation and development. As a result of this "ignorance" or unwillingness "to exploit the funding opportunities”, the  parties prefer to fight for personal and collective interest  withing the given possibilities in the coalition. These interests determine the responsibilities undertaken towards the Roma population, and they are the main reason for making coalition. Such coalitions of large and small parties involve less bargaining power and party loyalty. If Roma political parties are not in coalition with the major political parties, they should independently perform to the election. Such a choice is associated with higher costs for administering the party, expensive election campaigns and uncertainty about the party offices.  Obviously, the interests of Roma citizens are placed somewhere "out there" - in the government positions received from our Roma leaders or in the drawers of the coalition partners (VMRO/ SDSM).


Conclusion and recommendation

The urgency of developing a strategy for funding the Roma political parties is necessary for further progress and implementation of public policies related to Roma. The potential power of Roma political parties could be larger, and it is necessary impact to the general democratization, transparency, accountability and responsibility of political parties. Nonetheless, almost all the political parties in Macedonia have flaws in their functioning (corruptions scandals, underground repression, weak internal democracy etc.) even more than the Roma political parties.  In this respect, Roma parties have to demonstrate unity, greater democratic maturity and political culture because of the existing stigmas in society.

In this context, we suggest the following recommendations concerning the Roma political parties, Roma elite and the Roma community:

  • Unity of the political parties into one/two blocks - At the moment there are six Roma political parties functioning in Macedonia, which might be considered as a good indicator for the political participation in the country. Even though, this might be good for the political competition and development of the parties, it shows up that is not useful because Roma political parties have less bargaining power within the coalition. Therefore, the Roma political parties should unite under one/ two ideological blocks (which closely will cooperate for the Roma interest). Following this strategy, the cost for party administration will be lower and provide them with a space for focusing on attracting private sources. In addition, it will contribute to optimal usage of the already developed network of membership from the different parties
  • Strategy for private financing - From the analysis, it is obvious that the biggest challenge for the Roma political parties is the absence of funding their political activities. Due to this, parties are "office hunters" in the negotiation within the coalition, and they are "obliged" to rely on alternative strategies. Thus, political parties have to increase their membership and draw members interest for the voluntary contribution of resources in the party. Nonetheless, pre-condition is to create party ideology with clear aims transformed into program and plans, which will give certainty and gain the trust of the Roma community. In this regard, the membership fee base requires establishment of clear, transparent and accountable  system.
  • Cooperation with the business sector - Roma political parties should establish close cooperation with the business sector due to their mutual interest to protect the Roma capital. From one side, the Roma political parties should lobby for the Roma business and contribute for normal environment through law changes and obtaining policy opportunities for them.  From the other side, the business sector should support the political parties in an open and transparent way.

The above recommendation would strength the ties between the political parties, Roma community and business sector and provide greater checks and balances within the party. In this regard, party financing might contribute to greater internal democracy and bargaining power. Ein Once the political parties acknowledge this opportunity, we can expect implementation of public policies related to Roma.


[1] Ingrid van Biezen, Manual for financing political parties and electoral campaign , Publisher: Council of Europe, Preface Walter Schwimmer

[2] Carey, J., & Reynolds, A. (2007). Parties and Accountable Government in New Democracies. Party Politics.

[3] Burnell, Peter (1998) ‘Introduction: Money and Politics in Emerging Democracies’, in Peter Burnell and Alan Ware (eds) Funding Democratization, pp. 3–21. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

[4] For the purpose of the analysis, we divide the political parties into big, medium and small based on their relative size. In the category of big political parties falls the two biggest Macedonian and Albanian parties (VMRO, SDSM, DUI, DPA); medium ones (LDP; NSDP; GROM), and small political parties (the other ethnic political parties – Roma, Turkish, Bosniaks etc.)

[5] Law for financing political parties, the official gazette of the Republic of Macedonia no. 76/2004, 161/2008, 96/2009

[6] Jonathan Hopking (2004),  The Problem with Party Finance: Theoretical perspectives on the Funding of Party Politics, Party Politics


Read 92587 times Last modified on Monday, 13 October 2014 09:46

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.