“We have a saying – ‘every wonder lasts three days’. Political parties promise wonders and, unfortunately, that is how many days those wonders last. These promises must not be in the form of – one solution for all. A strategy has to be created with which social justice would be fulfilled, for all. We cannot separate certain groups of citizens as more important ones or of higher priority”, says expert on workers’ rights, Milan Zivkovic, from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Office in Skopje, in an interview for CIVIL Media.
CIVIL Media: Are the socially disadvantaged categories in Macedonia abused in a political or electoral context? What are your realizations and analysis?
ZIVKOVIC: What I am about to say may sound a little strange, but it is good to use the marginalized and disadvantaged groups of citizens in election campaigns and in pre-election activities. Imagine just how positive it would be if we had campaigns focusing on social justice. Social justice as a base for a political campaign, of any political party in Macedonia, focusing on all these issues concerning the disadvantaged and marginalized groups of citizens. The fact that most of the requests, more specifically, promises of the political parties in the pre-election period, remain unanswered and unfulfilled, points out that it everything comes down to an abuse. The non-fulfillment of pre-election promises indicates that it is in fact an abuse. How often does this happen? We have to say that so far, we have not seen a single campaign that has been fulfilled from word to word, in the period following the elections. This means that this is a serious problem for the citizens, a serious problem for the voters. Also, it is a serious problem for the political parties. Because, eventually, the political parties will be perceived by citizens as parties that are not realizing their promises.
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?
ZIVKOVIC: We have a saying – “every wonder lasts three days”. Political parties promise wonders and, unfortunately, that is how many days those wonders last. Also, these cannot be promises, which in the shortest period following the elections, will solve all the issues and problems of the disadvantaged and marginalized groups of citizens. For these reasons, if we look at social justice of the all the citizens in Republic of Macedonia, then we need to create a concrete strategy. Not everything is about the promises, not everything is about the housing issue, about the issue of addressing poverty…We need to see things as a complete solution, that is, create a strategy which would fulfill that social justice. And I will say once more, social justice for all. You cannot separate certain groups of citizens as more important, or of higher priority. Therefore, promises need to be more comprehensive, that is, for all. These promises cannot be and must not be populistic, and we are aware, or have witnessed so far in campaigns, and in the period following elections, that governments composed of various political parties, use these moments of solving poverty, or the problems of the marginalized groups of citizens. They do this in such a bombastic way that we get this perception, through the media, that we no longer have problems with poverty, with the homeless, we have no problem with respecting diversity…Though, the fact is that we do have a problem with all that.
CIVIL Media: What are the social and political consequences from abusing the issues in the area of social justice?
ZIVKOVIC: First of all, we must say that even the political parties would have consequences if they did not fulfill their promises. The promises that are largely described by political parties during the pre-election period, can lead to a situation in which the citizens themselves, or the those voting for the political parties, start to lose trust in those political parties, and end up staying home at the next election cycle. There is nothing worse than for the voters to stay home and not use their voting right, the constitutional right to vote for any party. But still, we cannot blame them if they have lost their trust in the political parties giving these promises. The consequences in terms of the social measures in this category of citizens are definitely, not setting priorities in solving the problems. The fact that in many cases political parties do not refer to the solutions offered by experts, or civil society organizations, does really present a problem. The parties go with their own analysis that have been developed in one way or another, and at the end, they come to a solution that they believe is good to use, or to solve the problems of these groups of citizens. These solutions are not always the optimum ones, which these disadvantaged or marginalized groups need.
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?
ZIVKOVIC: We need to understand that these issues cannot be treated only in the pre-election process. They are issues that need to start being considered from the very first day after the elections, and until the next elections. That is, if we assume that the next parliamentary elections, or local elections would take place once in every four years. That was not the case here. Nevertheless, if we assume that we do have elections every four years, then the process of creating these policies, or finding solutions, should last four years. This entire period should include all the above-mentioned groups. Also, civil society organizations, experts, unions, state institutions and all external experts who can give their contribution to solving the problems of the marginalized groups of citizens. This means sitting at a joint table, setting priorities, setting goals that are realistic, and setting a time frame. Some of the problems will not be solved in the first four years of the formation of a given government. Perhaps some issues and problems will not be able to be solved even in the next eight years, but, that is why a strategy should be developed for the implementation of social justice for all, in which everyone will give equal contribution. It is not only the state institutions that need to solve certain issues and problems of certain groups of citizens, but rather, all actors need to be involved. Therefore, if such a strategy is established, then there will absolutely be no problem in terms of the abuse of these groups of citizens in pre-election periods. This means that these issues will be absolved by the political campaigns and will be equally important for all political parties.
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.