“The awareness of the citizens needs to be changed in that the state is something you love, worship, and instead build awareness that the state is just an apparatus working for the citizens”, says human rights expert Professor Mirjana Najcevska, in an interview for CIVIL.
CIVIL Media: Are the socially disadvantaged categories in Macedonia abused in a political or electoral context? What are your realizations and analysis?
NAJCEVSKA: There is definitely abuse, which can be seen in the empty promises, in the using of surveys or gathering of opinions – focus groups, from which data is presented that doesn’t have much to do with reality. Abuse can also be in the insinuations that are given in terms that the government can make certain changes in society, which are definitely contrary either to the laws or the logics of democracy. This does not at all mean that the marginalized groups should not be part of the election campaigns. On the contrary, their problems have to be addressed in the election campaigns. However, not in this way, the way it has been done until now.
CIVIL Media: Which promises for social justice are realistic, and which promises are a kind of political corruption, or are playing with the expectations of the voters?
NAJCEVSKA: The biggest problem is actually the misinformation from part of the political parties – that the state is employing. Meaning, misinformation is made to citizens who cannot make a difference between the right to work and the right to employment. The state is the one that needs to provide working conditions, it needs to provide decent working conditions and should protect the employees. And it is the state that should create support for all those who are socially disadvantaged. Contrary to this, a very large part of the political campaigns is oriented to the aspect that the state will provide the jobs. Something a state cannot do, because it basically is not the main employer.
Also, the campaigns very often mention numbers. The number of social assistances that will be granted, increased and similar. However, usually these figures do not have much to do with reality. On one hand, due to the real opportunities that exist in the community, and on the other hand, due to the real needs of the citizens. That is, satisfying the needs that will provide a dignified life. Many times everything comes down to salaries, everything comes down to money, while the areas in which the state can actually participate are forgotten. And that being a general support to the citizens. Support with appropriate services, with reduced taxes, support that would enable them a dignified life, regardless of whether their assistance is higher or their salary.
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences from abusing the issues in the area of social justice?
NAJCEVSKA: One of the biggest and most terrible consequences is that false expectations are developed among citizens, in that with a new political structure in power they can automatically expect, for example, employment from that political structure. And even in conversations, when citizens are discussing why they would vote or would not vote for a certain political option, they mention very openly: “Well, they employed my child, they employed my husband, they employed me, and because of this I owe it to them, so I have to vote”. So, political structures, political parties appear in the role of someone who gives employment to citizens, who gives them social welfare, gives them conditions for survival, and the citizens lose the perception that on the other side there is actually an apparatus, which exists only to satisfy its needs and interests. An apparatus in which citizens’ money flows in. An apparatus that does not dispose with its own resources that it can give somewhere, in one way or another, with its own good will. And what does that false perception actually do? People start waiting at the doors of the ministries as soon as a certain political structure comes to power, saying they need work, they need money for an apartment, money for this and that…and the clientelist relationship between the citizens and the state is automatically created, more specifically, an illusion that the state is granting something, for which the citizens need to be grateful and will express their gratitude by voting again and again for a certain political structure.
CIVIL Media: What can and what should the institutions, political parties, unions and civil society do in order to prevent the abuse of socially disadvantaged categories, and overall the topics in the area of social justice in the political and electoral context?
NAJCEVSKA: The first thing that needs to be done is very trivial and something I have been repeating the entire time, and that is – to remove the parties from the administration and state structure. Hence, everything that is state structuring is actually a big service activity for the citizens. Political parties have a share in the policy creation, in the creation of the guidelines for the community, based on a certain ideology, on certain values, on a certain vision, vision on the direction in which the community should be moving. However, the parties do not have what to do in a service apparatus. That service apparatus, in fact, only allocates citizens’ money, which the citizens have given, and spends them on the priority of citizens. In order for something to change, first of all, the participation of citizens has to increase, in the decision-making process, that is, for them to say what it is that they need, what are the things that money need to be spent on. The control of the state structure by the citizens needs to increase, so that there can be reactions every time there is abuse of funds.
And in any case, the awareness of the citizens needs to be changed in that the state is something you love, worship, and instead build awareness that the state is just an apparatus working for the citizens.
CIVIL – Center for Freedom is implementing the pilot project “Promises and Abuses”, which deals with abuse of social justice for political and electoral purposes. The goal of the project is to contribute to the strengthening of public awareness on abuses in the sphere of social justice in the electoral context, as well as to prevent manipulative practices of the political centers of power. The project is implemented in cooperation with the Heinrich Bὅll Foundation – Office in Sarajevo.