While the ruling party hands dozens of party faithful their walking papers in moves that it says will boost government efficiency, critics say highly-paid officials will likely land other jobs in the government.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 14/05/12
The ruling VMRO-DPMNE party is replacing 150 of its members or cadres employed in the state sector -- from the highest to lowest positions, as well as in the party's municipal committees.
This marks the first instance in the region that a ruling party is reforming itself without the catalyst of elections.
"We are including new people in order to keep the pace we desire to work at, especially in positions [in which] the pace has been reduced to what it was before, because of fatigue or distance from the citizens," Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.
The directors of four institutions -- Macedonian Power Plants (ELEM), the Agency for State Roads, the Railway Transport Agency and the state cadastre office -- have offered their resignations.
While many employees will be hitting the street searching for other work, some will remain in government managerial positions.
Though praising it as a far-reaching and positive move, University St Kliment Ohridski professor and political analyst Jove Kekenovski says this should have been done much earlier to improve the results of the government's work.
He explained that filling state positions with ruling party cadres has posed a significant obstacle to fair and transparent employment practices regionwide, as well as to the practice of democracy itself.
"If the government truly wants to show the changes are not cosmetic, it should start from the first echelon i.e., cabinet ministers, not only the directors of agencies," Kekenovski told SETimes.
That will be a great victory not only for the ruling party but for transparent democracy, and in the final analysis, for society at large, he added.
Most analysts believe replacing ministers who have shown inadequate results will strengthen public trust in the cabinet, primarily the office of the prime minister.
The Macedonian media, citing government sources, has already reported that Transport and Communications Minister Mile Janakievski will be replaced.
"I lead the ministry and take every day like it is my first. With every new day I have greater motivation to materialise new projects, and have realised many in the past six years," Janakievski responded.
Critics point out that even if some ministers are changed, they will end up in cushy positions elsewhere.
But political analyst Vladimir Bozhinovski told SETimes the changes are part of a larger agenda to fundamentally change governance in Macedonia: to be more responsive and results oriented.
"If 150 officials are being replaced, the changes are anything but cosmetic as some have alleged. From a political point of view, this move will be a big plus for the ruling party ahead of the local elections next year," Bozhinovski said.
VMRO-DPMNE has taken its effort a step further, calling on all citizens who believe they have the necessary skills, to apply for any of the 150 positions in the second and third echelon.
In accordance with employment laws, all candidates will have an equal opportunity, regardless of whether they are party members or not.
Kekenovski, however, is more concerned that the changes apply to all coalition partners in the government, including the Democratic Union of Albanians (DUI).
"Gruevski must tell [DUI leader] Ali Ahmeti which ministers, assistant ministers and state secretaries do not work well, and request new people. If he does not lay down the same criteria for everybody, the overall idea will be compromised," Kekenovski said.
The public seems both surprised and supportive of the ruling party's move.
"It was time for some to get a red card, and we all hope more knowledgeable and experienced people will come in," Skopje resident Viktor Trajanovski, 39, told SETimes.
Across the region, no similar unilateral moves are under way. In Serbia and Greece for example, the May 6th elections will force changes, but only after new coalitions are formed among the winners.
"Because of party influence, there is no separation among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. This way, we tend towards an authoritarian system," Vesna Peshic, an independent in the Serbian parliament, told the local media.
In addition to replacing some directors, Macedonia is shaking up its diplomatic corps, replacing some ambassadors. At least four new diplomats have just been appointed, and more are expected.
"It is positive that the state is opting for better known names that have proved themselves rather than party cadres, some of whom underperform. The move will surely strengthen Macedonia's diplomatic, cultural, and now trade and economic relations, as the emphasis is increasingly on investments," Bozhinovski told SETimes.