Monday, 29 September 2014 00:00

The role of the Roma political parties in Macedonia in practice of democracy from 1990 to 2011

Written by  Suad Skenderi and Deniz Selmani
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By introducing the pluralism in the Republic of Macedonia, Roma gained the right to take part and to contribute for democratic development in the political and legal system of the state. The practice of the democratic culture among the Roma community does not significantly differ from the overall democratic and political environment in the country. Every democratic country is undergoing a process of implementation of conditions such as rule of law, high level of civil and political liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom to form and join organizations.[1] After 20 years of practicing pluralism in the country, the development of the political culture of Roma is presented in two periods – before the Ohrid Framework Agreement and after the Ohrid Framework Agreement. According to the results and the behavior of Roma political parties, it is evident that the parties failed optimally to utilize the given opportunities initiated by the principles of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.

The modifications of the Constitution in 2001 preloaded new principles with the Framework Agreement, which was a balance in the redefinition of the constituent elements of the state. This included major communities and the Roma community as well. This act represents an opportunity for the Roma political élite and at the same time commitment to support the multi-ethnic character of the state. In the period from 1990 to 1998, the Roma community in Macedonia formed three political parties represented by one Member of Parliament and lack of institutional representation. While in the period from 2002 to 2006 there were five more parties registered. This process was counterproductive for the Roma community due to the division of the Roma electorate instead of consolidation derived from the new constitutional changes. The Roma political parties entered the process of fragmentation of the electorate that further reduced the value and impact of the voice of the Roma community.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the political competition of Roma political parties in the period from 1991 to 2013 by using the behavioral theory by Kaare Strom. Furthermore, it explains how Roma political parties emerged and what the benefits of the Ohrid Framework Agreement were. The concluding remarks are presented at the very end of this paper.


Background information

Macedonia from its independence has a multi-party parliamentary democracy. Since 1991, the country had a variety of political parties with different ideologies. Although in theory proves that Macedonia is a multi-party system, in practice there is a bipartisan system. Macedonian parties in the coalition with the Albanian parties compose the government and the opposition.[2] In theory, the ethnic formed parties may have different ideologies. In the interest of preserving the identity, values and tradition the Roma political parties would be classified as right-wing parties, but also, they can be left oriented if their interest is social security, equality and solidarity. According to the needs of the Roma community, parties would rather be left oriented for left political parties’ access to social policies that are more flexible and tolerant towards minorities.

Formally, it is difficult to determine the ideology of Roma political parties because their statutes are hardly accessible to the public. This causes a lack of information among the Roma electorate because it remains uncertain whether it supports an ideological option or leader (individual). The following table shows the chronological appearance of Roma political parties from 1990 to 2011.


Development of Roma political parties

The democratization process in the Republic of Macedonia created space for the minorities as well for Roma to be integrated with the political life. Roma parties were formed since the independence of the country. Roma in the Republic of Macedonia from 1990 to 2011 have formed eight political parties. The first political party "Party for Full Emancipation of Roma" - PCERM was established in 1991, and the leader was Mr. Faik Abdi. His first associates were Mr. Nezdet Mustafa and Mr. Shaban Saliu who were general secretaries of the party. The "Party for Full Emancipation of Roma" - PCERM in the first parliamentary elections nominated Mr. Faik Abdi as a member of parliament in the Republic of Macedonia.[3]

In 1994 due to the disagreement of the narrow leadership in "Party for Full Emancipation of Roma" – PCERM, the second Romani political party "Democratic Progressive Party of the Roma" – DPPRM[4] was formed with the president Mr. Nezdet Mustafa. In 1994, Mr. Faik Abdi was again a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, but now accompanied by another member, Mr. Amdi Bajram, this was a result of consolidated Roma electorate with two representatives in the parliament in 1994.[5]

In 1998, again due to the disagreement in the leadership in "Party for Full Emancipation of Roma" - a new party appears "Union of Roma of Macedonia" - SRM having Mr. Amdi Bajram as a new leader, who was earlier part of the PCERM. In the same year, Mr. Amdi Bajram became the second time a representative of the Roma community immediately after he formed the "Union of Roma of Macedonia" - SRM. [6]

In 2002 emerged a new political party, and one party was renamed. A new political party is "Party for Roma Unity" its party president was Mr. Alil Mevail.[7] This party appeared on the 2002 parliamentary elections and local elections in 2005 in Tetovo. While "The Democratic Progressive Party of the Roma" - DPPRM renamed in "United Party for Emancipation" and the chairperson of the party remained Mr. Nezdet Mustafa.[8] In 2003, after the media debacle of Mr. Amdi Bajram and Mr. Shaban Saliu, there was a leadership contention and a new political party occurred with the name "Democratic Forces of Roma" - DSR with Mr. Shaban Saliu as a party leader, former SRM and PCER member.[9]

In 2006 two new Roma political parties appeared. In the same year, Mr. Bajram Berat register the "Party for Integration of Roma" - PIR[10] while Mr. Adem Arifoski from Prilep formed the "Democratic Union of Roma" - DUR.[11]


Theoretical framework

In a period of over 20 years, Roma political parties fail to impose as competing political parties in the Macedonian society. This is because these parties are solely concerned about the leaders’ interests provided by the dependent members who want to solve their existential problems or needs. Roma political parties often work together with the parties in the government due to the possibility that members can obtain functions or other positions in the public administration. Bargaining with the leaders of Roma political parties have been an easy task for major parties and that can result with one or more than one Members of Parliament, one or no minister position or any deputy minister and several directors of administration offices and heads of departments. In order to have an illustrative description and analysis of the competition of the Roma political parties, the behavioral theory of competitive political parties can evaluate these parties.[12] This theory identifies three models of behavior in political competition of parties:

  • The vote-seeking parties
  • The Office-seeking parties and
  • The Policy-seeking parties.

The vote-seeking model is used largely because of the maximizing turnout, which is an essential element for being relevant subject in coalition with the larger parties. This model boosts and encourages the ambition for offices. In terms of votes, the parties bargain for offices or positions that can undertake. Recently Roma political parties use this model to represent the interests of the party or the voters. According to calculations of the ruling party, Roma political parties receive offices according to the given contribution to the victory of the ruling party. The office-seeking model aims to maximize the control of the institutions or the positions dedicated for a Roma party. The Policy-seeking model is used to maximize the impact of parties in public policy. This model is applied if the parties are in the same or similar range of ideologies or policies. The impact of the public policy starts from the offices undertaken by the parties so that each party can control the institution and influence for an implementation of a policy.


All of the above models have their advantages and disadvantages. The practice shows that the Roma parties build coalitions with parties having different ideologies, whether their interest, program or ideology strives for the same goal. Each of the models offers participation in representing the citizens. In the period before the Framework Agreement, the Roma political parties were part of the government in coalition with the party that has won the most votes. During this period, three parties represented Roma, and they aimed at maximizing votes for any office without much influence on public policies that were implemented in the state. During this period, it was easy to buy votes and to manipulate the Roma parties.

With the signing of the Framework Agreement in 2006, the Roma got five new parties and greater participation and influence in government but still unsatisfactory. The Framework Agreement even though it was initiated by another reason due to other circumstances and interests, however, it was encouraging and improvement process for Roma parties in Macedonia. In the period of the trend to set up new parties and quarreling who stole the money from the Decade of Roma Inclusion, the parties did not see the Framework Agreement important as a chance to gain more influence. According to the agreement, the state's largest minority demanded equal distribution of offices because of the vote maximization, while the Roma parties played the role of loyal partners and satisfied with what they already received from the major parties. If the party with the most significant number of votes from the Macedonian block decided to distribute offices for the party with the greatest number of votes of the Albanian block then there would possibly be some places offered for the Roma parties as well. The bargaining process or as most major parties identify as “Gypsy politics” shows that the Roma political parties are employers for a definite group of people. If we use the theory to show the contribution of Roma political parties in the period from 2001 to today, graphically it looks like this:


Parties using the Framework Agreement have become major factors in the race for power. With a network of jobs and voters, Roma parties are not able to manage or influence public policies. Regardless of the political affiliation, the parties agree to work together, and it proved as an adverse result in the representation of the interests of the Roma. The transition and the coalition with parties from different profile reduce the chance to act on policies because they would not afford to lose what they already were offered after the elections. Voters' interests can most effectively be advocated if a party has influence in decision-making processes in the country. If a party does not affect the policies in favor of their constituents then it loses the credibility and reputation as a serious political entity.


Concluding remarks

In conclusion, the trend in recent years is that Roma parties always enter a coalition with the Macedonian political parties. The question is why Roma parties discard, or they are not interested in a coalition with Albanian political parties. Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar and Kicevo are cities in which the majority of the population is Albanian. The results show that in these four cities the Albanian political parties have more power than the Macedonian political parties do. The fight is mainly conducted between Albanian parties almost every election, and it is quite uncertain in choosing who will be the elected mayor and the municipality councilors. The Roma vote can be decisive in these cities, but Roma political parties are not interested or do not want to be positioned on the Albanian side. If Roma parties knew how to negotiate, Roma would have more counselors at the local level. These Roma votes not only would they have the power to elect a counselor, but elect more than one counselor that would do far more in the political arena among Albanians and Macedonians. In the above-mentioned cities, locally Roma could participate in the adoption of policies concerning the local Roma community. A coalition with Albanian parties would also adopt a greater representation of the Roma community in local institutions despite the fact that Roma are less than 25% (Ohrid Framework Agreement principle for representation of symbols, language and positions) of the total population in these communities. This is also a chance for the educated Roma to advocate in their communities and promote the interests of Roma in local institutions, not just being frequently given to be janitors in some of the institutions. For all this to be achieved the Roma political parties should have the know-how to negotiate with the right actors. Roma political parties should provide their programs, ideology, statute and structure in order to show their importance as political factors. Roma political parties should also concentrate on participating in the public polices and the decision-making processes to establish the voters’ needs. Roma political parties should also account to the citizens, not just during the election campaigns but also regularly in order to save their credibility and visibility among the electorate.

The analysis is copyrighted, unauthorized publishing, text reproduction, distribution, and text copy is prohibited without prior consent by the author.

[1] Dahl, R.A. (1989). “Democracy and its critics”, New Haven: Yale University Press

[2] Daskalovski, Zidas, “Between the political convenience and equal opportunities” Association for Democratic Initiatices, pages  45 – 56, (2006)

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[12] Kaare Strom, A Behavioral Theory of Competitive Political Parties, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 34, No. 2 (May, 1990), pp. 565-598


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