A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but where they need to be

Andreja Stojkovski/Photo: Archive

Because I know the past, I thought about the future. You don't go into the future with empty words and phrases. In the future, there is no development in isolation, nor is there freedom and democracy when bullies are glorified as heroes. Everything is possible in the future, only if we strive for the impossible.

This week I was reminded of an extraordinarily long but very interesting, even instructive, joke about a husband who got away with murder. In the joke, the husband appears accused of murdering his own wife and defends himself in front of the judge with her mental capacities and his ability to persistently explain himself and help her understand when she is doing and where the mistake is. It was difficult for him, and at first the judge did not have much understanding for the accused, he did not even see things differently. Let's face it, there was no murder this week. There was an attempt to completely destroy the dignified discussion about the political and electoral offer, and after it we discovered a new bottom of the political culture.
It was heralded as a key event of the 2024 election, an electoral face-off between the leaders of the two biggest political parties, in "Only the truth" on TV Channel 5. To be honest, I have never loved the show. I have repeatedly refused to participate in it. But I am still a civil activist, researcher and analyst, and the show is made for politicians and political debate. In it, the interlocutors, usually from opposite political ideologies, in physically opposite positions, present their own vision of the truth. Realistically, it is impossible, but, in one's visions, the truth can obviously have a different interpretation.
At the beginning of the confrontation, the leaders talked about the qualities of the presidential candidates. Each of them lavishly painted the image of their own candidate, making, at the very least, a caricature of the opponent. It wasn't fair! It's just that no one thought of the other four candidates. I am sure that among them there are inspiring professors, there are also God-fearing people, but that is not a quality of the president of the country. The president of the state must be a leader, he must have a vision of what the state should look like and lead, guide and push the citizens towards the ideal for the state.
Former US President Jimmy Carter's wife, Rosalyn Carter, said: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but where they need to be." In conditions where the world is a global village, when the founder of the constitution made his decision, and thus directed the state towards Western liberal democracies, our place is unequivocal in NATO, and of course also in the European Union. From there, the president and leader of the country is the one who will work to ensure that North Macedonia is a good member of NATO, investing in its own defense and the defense of the allies.

The one who will be principled and exemplary in his personal actions, making the state principled and solidary in following the consensual decisions of the alliance. The one who will invest himself in North Macedonia becoming a member of the European Union, providing a better chance for economic development to its own citizens. For me, in this election, the choice is clear. There are no more than two candidates who have ever done that and, I believe, will continue to do so. I have had the opportunity to work with both of them, meet often and talk. Both fit perfectly into the vision that, thanks to my home upbringing, I have for a good interlocutor. The one with whom we communicate verbally and non-verbally, we exchange words, but also gestures and most importantly, we look each other in the eye.
As I listened to the exchange about the presidential candidates, two theses caught my ear. The first was that President Pendarovski will be remembered for his statement to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov. The second, that the fundamental values ​​of the state were violated, especially in the last six and a half years.
If we talk about the first one, then... one statement does not make the president, but it can certainly be remembered. Many, for example, remember President Boris Trajkovski, after the statement he made to the allies during the refugee crisis from Kosovo, in 1999. However, according to the last survey we conducted with the PRESPA Institute, for the majority of our citizens, Boris Trajkovski was and remains an outstanding president of the country, with enviable results in terms of his competences for foreign and security policy.
If we talk about the second one, then the only fundamental values ​​that I know about, as a lawyer, are the fundamental values ​​of the constitutional order, described in Article 8 of the Constitution. At the same time, the candidate, the leader and the party constantly talk about the state as a regime, and for six and a half years we have not been evaluated as a captive state. Compared to the period before those last six years, the situation with respect for human rights is improving, North Macedonia is better rated or ranked higher on the indices for democracy, freedom of speech, happiness, etc.
The topics of the debate ranged, there was talk about the so-called "French proposal", for the Prespa Agreement, for more issues from recent history that can have a serious impact on our future.

Mainly theses that could be recognized are grouped around the fatality of policies. One of the speakers said that the policies in the past were fatal for the country, they humiliated us, disfigured us, etc. The second of the speakers said that the policies that his opponent would lead would be fatal for the country in the future.
I have passed the past, survived and today I am more experienced than I was. I know that North Macedonia had a hybrid regime. That was in the period between 2013 and 2017. During that period, more than 20.000 people were illegally wiretapped. In that hybrid regime, there was a "shooting" list of 148 well-known civil activists. Among other things, there are still those on social media calling for the execution of many of these 148. I know that the hybrid regime defended itself with a mob that broke into the Parliament to kill and prevent the transfer of power. I know we are not today. More importantly, today we are a member of the most powerful military alliance in history, in which democratic states are members.
Because I know the past, I thought about the future. You don't go into the future with empty words and phrases. In the future, there is no development in isolation, nor is there freedom and democracy when bullies are glorified as heroes. Everything is possible in the future, only if we strive for the impossible. After 23 years since the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and 20 years since its entry into force, accession to the European Union seems seemingly impossible. However, it is realistically possible. Possibly through constitutional changes and dedicated work on reforms, but also dedicated work on own, personal and as a nation, improvement. Accession is possible, if the whole society participates in it and Europeanizes through it.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the phone. It was a video that my wife sent me in a message. In the video, Dalibor Šumiga, neuromarketing specialist, founder and manager of Promosapiens, a behavioral marketing agency, talks about the notion of evolution as a solution to modern political problems.

In doing so, he answers the question of which disease is treated with Varaquina or sodium hypo chloride solution. In response, Shumiga makes an allusion to the modern debate between the reasonable in an attempt to reason with the others, and refers to the events related to the Brexit referendum and a statement by the famous comedian Ricky Gervais.
When I returned to the TV, the lotto draw was ending and the TV debate was slowly returning. Already in the first few minutes, he reminded me of the full splendor of not having any hearing or respect for the interlocutor from the previous part. Right away, one of the interlocutors, trying to avoid an answer and present a position different from the one that will keep the electorate, continued to mock and provoke the interlocutor, trying to annoy him and throw him out of his comfort zone. It reminded me a lot of the discussion that Shumiga described, and about which Gervais spoke. Then I remembered the joke about the husband who got away with murder.
Somewhere towards the end of the defendant's long explanation to the judge, he says: “… I corrected that the river in southern Germany is called the Neckar. You don't know that, he told me, since I was little I sang with my friend in a duo about the Nectar River.
You mean in unison!
He told me, No! It is a duet when Real and Barca play.
Honorable Judge, I then got up and …” I pressed the off button on the TV. It was clearly time for an evolution.

(The author is the executive director of the Prespa Institute)

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