Nikola Todorov: There will be constitutional changes, the question is whether before or after the elections

Nikola Todorov/ Photo: Private archive

Macedonia will have to include the Bulgarians in the Constitution, the question is whether this will happen before or after elections. In the next few months, it will be crystallized whether Mickoski will grow into a leader who will lead the nation or will have to leave with the burden of a man who left VMRO-DPMNE for the longest time in the opposition, says Todorov.

Nikola Todorov, the former high-ranking official in VMRO-DPMNE and minister in the government of Nikola Gruevski, now an asylum seeker in Hungary, has almost no doubts that Macedonia will continue on "the road to the West, which we have chosen for a long time", and that everything else is the result to some "stubbornness caused by the momentary dissatisfaction with the political elites".

- What connection do you see regarding the constitutional amendments, will there be or not?

The latest Macedonian political dilemma is - EU or government! I believe that only SDSM wants the constitutional amendments not to be approved more than VMRO-DPMNE, because they think that this way SDSM will have the support of the international community, and VMRO will not have that support and will be increasingly isolated in international relations.
On the other hand, it is clear to everyone in Macedonia that there must be constitutional amendments, if we want to continue our path towards the EU, that is, to open the first chapters in the negotiations. It is clear to the good connoisseurs of international politics that at this moment, it is almost impossible for anyone to influence Bulgaria to give up the request to change the Constitution, bearing in mind the extremely great strategic importance of Bulgaria in light of the conflict in Ukraine. That is why it is impossible to achieve a more favorable position for Macedonia than the one we have.
If this is so, then it is clear that sooner or later Macedonia will have to take this step and insert the Bulgarians into the Constitution, which means this will happen. The question is whether it will be before or after the elections and when the elections will take place. It suits VMRO-DPMNE that this should be after the elections, and it is not suitable for SDSM to have elections this year, so if SDSM insists on the position that the elections should be held in June 2024, then it is unlikely that the constitutional amendments will take place within the stipulated period. until the end of this calendar year. However, I think that with a little wisdom and political experience, an elegant solution can be found that will not threaten our EU ambitions, nor will it have any negative effect for VMRO-DPMNE in the next elections. This is the momentum of the violation and it will depend on this whether Macedonia will get a stable government led by VMRO or will enter a "Bulgarian scenario" of functioning without a political one, but with an elected government for a longer period of time. The situation requires making precise and well-measured visionary moves, because as I recently wrote, VMRO-DPMNE cannot afford to remain in opposition for another four years, and Macedonia cannot endure another four years under this government. If you ask me, I want with all my heart VMRO to win and form a government, but in the next few months it will crystallize whether Mickoski will grow into a leader who will lead the nation or will have to leave with the burden of a man who left VMRO in opposition for the longest time.

- You were a minister and high party official in VMRO-DPMNE during the time of Nikola Gruevski. You are no longer part of this leadership. Why?

So I decided. I believed and still believe that no one should hold a high political office for more than 8 consecutive years. Staying in a position of power for a long time changes a person, shifts his worldview and creates a sense of innocence and omnipotence. On the other hand, I decided this way because I refused to become a professional politician, a man without another, without his basic profession. That is why I decided to devote myself to law as my main profession, and for politics, there is time.

– However, it's still your party if I'm not mistaken. But is there a difference between that, your VMRO and this current one? (Ideological, organizational, from a leadership perspective...)

Yes, VMRO-DPMNE was and always will be my only party. I have not been in another party, nor do I want to be. I grew up politically there and I want to stay there. Normally, whenever I feel that something is not going as it should, that the party is moving away from the ideological principles of the organization, I will react, sometimes quietly and internally, and sometimes loudly and publicly, even at the cost of being criticized by the leadership or even from the membership. I always give criticism in order to help the party, not to discourage it, so since my motives are honest and sincere, I am not affected by the criticisms and disparagements that are often poured against me. I do not want to create artificial divisions of old and new VMRO, mine and their VMRO. It is normal for each leadership to have its own style and way of management, that is, management of the party. But in politics, the easiest way to evaluate the success of a leader, that is, a party, is how much time the party that leads it spent in opposition and how much in power, because the point of the party's existence is to fight to come to power and in that way, to implement his program and impose his ideology, that is, his vision for the society/state. Unfortunately, VMRO-DPMNE has been in opposition for a long time and if it persists in not having constitutional amendments and elections, VMRO-DPMNE will be in opposition until the second half of 2024, that is, the longest since its foundation until today.

Nikola Todorov/ Photo: Private archive

– You are very active with the columns you write, in which a certain difference in the understanding of patriotism is felt, as well as a more emphasized state interest from the party leadership. Is that so or am I wrong?

I stand for the so-called moderate patriotism or liberal conservatism. To clarify, liberal conservatism is a conservative ideology with liberal positions on economic, social, and ethical issues. Unfortunately, I cannot say that these positions are often represented on our political scene, that is, I see these attitudes or politicians and policies from this proliferation less and less. More and more often I see extreme right-wing and nationalist attitudes and policies, and lately I also see some extreme left-oriented nationalists. As the elections approach, I expect this nationalist rhetoric to strengthen and intensify, at the expense of moderate patriotism, which will increasingly be treated as treason, and its adherents as unpatriotic. This is because in times of peak social apathy it is easiest to be a nationalist. When we add to this the bare populism that is becoming more and more present in all parties, and especially in some of the smaller parties, then the state interest is often substituted by the party and personal interest, and that substitution is almost without exception made under the guise of the will of the majority.

- Macedonia seems like it has never before found a crossroads on which way it will go, to the east or continue to the west. How do you see it?

I don't think we are at a crossroads. I think we have long since made our way to the west. We belong to the West and Western democratic values, and I think everything else is marginal or the result of some Macedonian stubbornness caused by a momentary dissatisfaction with the political elites. I am quite sure that a large part of the supporters of these predominantly left-wing parties, which seem to lean towards Moscow, do not want us to change the orientation from West to East, but only out of spite, as a result of disappointment with the conditions in society, give their support to these small parties that they know they cannot win. However, this is not harmless, because firstly, the disappointment, I would say the resignation, is huge, and secondly, the strong strengthening of these parties will certainly have its implications in our domestic and international politics, as well as our position.

- The stake of the parties is "up to the mark" so their "fate" depends on whether there will be constitutional changes or not. How will this party battle end?

They think wrong. The existence of any party does not depend on constitutional amendments and elections, but only the position of the party's leader can depend on it, which is certainly temporary and changeable. This is especially true for the big parties, where it turned out that everything can be done without Branko and Ljubco, which the members considered to be irreplaceable icons. Even now, the leader who loses or who does not form a government will leave, someone new will come in his place and no party will disappear because of it. What I fear is that this party battle will not end with the defeat of the state and our European ambitions.

- An unwritten rule in our country is that the rating of a party also depends on the rating of the leader. But the latest polls show a certain disproportion, in the two parties VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, the former leaders still have a solid rating. At VMRO-DPMNE, even the former leader Gruevski had a higher rating than the current Mickoski! What is the reason for this phenomenon?

Unfortunately this is due to the lack of leadership and leadership potential. As a result of this, the citizens cannot recognize their national or ideological leader among the current presidents of political parties, therefore there is a division and for the first time the leaders of the two largest political parties have a lower rating than the party they lead. The reason for that is that the top people of the parties are more frontmen than leaders, because they create their policies, but also adjust the party narrative based on the polls. On the other hand, a leader is one who knows how to lead the citizens in the direction of realizing his vision for the state and convince them that his vision is good for the state and its citizens. But a leader is also the one who knows how to make a decision with which the majority does not agree, honestly, passionately and publicly defend that decision and try to convince the majority of its correctness. And finally, a leader is one who does not care if he loses or wins, as long as what he does is useful for the country. The one who sets himself up like this will kill apathy and be the next Macedonian leader.

– Can it be said that Gruevski still has influence not only among Vmrov's supporters, but also among some of the deputies or among the leadership?

It is normal for him to have, because he successfully led the party and the state for a long time, so the members of VMRO-DPMNE, as well as the right-oriented voters, increasingly look at that time with some kind of nostalgia and compare that time with what they are living today. You know, the voter always compares, how it was lived then, how it is lived now, how the state functioned then, how it functions now, and based on this individualized comparison, each person makes his own judgment about who he should support and which politician he has the greatest support for. trust.

Nikola Todorov/ Photo: Private archive

– The amendments to the Criminal Law have met with different comments in the public, how do you, as a lawyer, evaluate them?

There was a great uproar over these changes, and that uproar destroyed the possibility of a rational and professional debate. I saw a large number of expert analyses, some positive, some negative, but the court of the public did not seem to want to hear these expert debates. I think it was a big mistake of the then Minister of Justice who introduced such a broad paragraph 5 of the crime of abuse of official position and authority, which basically left more room for political persecution of dissidents than for a real fight against crime and corruption. I know some former prominent SDSM officials who did not sign anything while they were ministers, and did not implement their program, because they were afraid of the possibility of political persecution based on this very famous paragraph 5 of Article 353 of the CC. From what I've been following, the criticisms of these changes to the CC have mainly been directed at it being some kind of secret amnesty. It is a fact that these changes will have an impact in a certain number of current and future cases, but it is also a fact that they do not apply to all current or future cases. But I would look a little bit from another angle, and from another perspective, so I would ask why these procedures were conducted for 7 or 8 years without an end? Was the reason that in some cases there was not enough evidence to support the accusations, or were these cases deliberately manipulated to score some political points from the daily trial of prominent members of VMRO-DPMNE and to keep the political message alive? that is, a campaign: "Do you want these back?". As a lawyer, I believe that there should not be crimes that are defined in such a way as to leave a wide space for political abuse, i.e. political persecution of dissidents, but also that the principle of impunity should not be legislated, especially in the case where there is evidence that some official a person illegally enriched himself as a result of the position he held, but also that it should not be allowed to block the state and its normal functioning due to fear of persecution due to a mistake by the commission that carried out a procurement.
Otherwise, the court brought the people under the impression that if an official sets up a tender, takes a bribe or disproportionately increases his property, he will not be held accountable. This is not true because in the Criminal Code there are crimes that precisely incriminate these illegal acts. In all these crimes, for officials, the relative statute of limitations is up to 20 years, and the absolute statute of limitations is twice as long, which means that they are not statute-barred. On the other hand, the extended confiscation introduced by these amendments is a good basis for confiscating stolen property, even in cases where there are legal or factual obstacles to conducting criminal proceedings, which for me is far more important, i.e. I believe that for it is more important for the citizens and the state to confiscate the stolen than for someone to lie in prison, and to largely manage to keep the stolen money.

- Some informal groups go so far in their analysis that they believe that behind them is an attempt by the government to "help" Gruevski in passing the constitutional amendments. Is that possible?

I have no such information and think this is more in the realm of speculation.

- This government, despite what it did, or as it says, that it made a big step forward economically during the health and energy crisis, seems to be failing to achieve a positive effect among the citizens. Why?

Because they don't work enough and because they are more concerned with politics than economics. And from politics, neither the state nor the citizens can live. It was like that when they were solving the name problem, and now it's even worse. As if all ministers are responsible for foreign affairs. What do constitutional amendments have to do with the problem of pollution, dysfunctional public administration, low salaries and pensions, inflation and lack of textbooks? Nothing, but as I said, everyone politicizes more than doing the job they were elected to do.

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