Wednesday, 13 December 2017 | News today: 13

Nikola Todorov: We gave a hand for elections, but with SDSM everything is possible

Taking into account all developments following the Przino Agreement, because on its anniversary we have a new agreement and time frame, can we say that we have a stable agreement?

Todorov: This is not a new agreement, this is an agreement for implementation of the existing agreement concluded in June / July last year. The parties, practically, throughout the negotiation process we had during the past period, have coordinated the way to fully implement this agreement until election day.

You came to the interview directly from the negotiations, so can one say that everything will go within the new time limit in order to get to the leaders’ meeting at the end of August and possible December elections?

Todorov: I hope so. Today we harmonized the text of the five laws that will be submitted to the Macedonian Parliament and I hope they will be adopted by Wednesday, which will pave the way for fair and democratic elections in which everyone will participate. Of course, prior to that there will be a control point by late August, when leaders should meet and verify that all requirements are met and determine the election date.

While adopting the first law stemming from the agreement, amendments to the Electoral Code, there were sparks, so the law was passed figuratively. Will there be another sparks in Parliament?

Todorov: I hope not. I hope that the laws will win the support of the lawmakers. However, the stakes are high, the stakes will end the crisis in Macedonia, imposed by the SDSM. And when the stakes are so high, everyone should approach this matter with great seriousness and what has been agreed, what we gave a hand for, to be fulfilled and respected.

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On one hand, both VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM leaders and party officials have voiced satisfaction with the Agreement, while the party struggle on the ground in proving who managed to impose something continues. Even before reaching the agreement you said that the ruling party made concessions to reach the agreement, while SDSM, conditionally, was not willing to do that. What was the brake and how was the agreement reached, particularly over the voters’ list and the media – as SDSM said minimum conditions for holding elections?

Todorov: SDSM has repeatedly said it wants to take part in the elections and in order to that, some, one or two, conditions should be met and thus it set conditions that are very illogical, that should no be accepted or that it assumed they would not be accepted. I, personally, believe that SDSM is bluffing that it wants to participate in the elections. For SDSM bluff to come to light, we have accepted its requests, no matter how illogical they may seem, especially the part on the voters’ list. It is very illogical, especially for those 39,502 people who need to make an active registration in order to verify that they are here, that they are citizens of their own country. Now, what’s funnier and what’s proving the lack of logic is that many prominent members of the SDSM can be found on this list. Radmila Sekerinska’s sister, Pavle Trajanov, a former interior minister, Gordan Georgiev, a former vice president of SDSM, professor Najchevska, family members of professor Vankovska… Therefore, that’s a proof that there was no problem with the voters’ list at all, that that was an alibi for SDSM not to recognize the elections in 2014 which it lost and to start the crisis in Macedonia. This is SDSM’s scenario how to plunge the country into crisis through which SDSM will try to obtain some political points. It is unfortunate and tragic. That’s what parties that have no vision for development, no program, no political offer and do not know the needs and expectations of citizens do. So, beware, SDSM is creating a crisis in order to come to power, nothing else. This whole crisis was created by  SDSM for only one reason and idea – to come to power at any cost. That’s why it invented the request with the voters’ list, and that is, first, to mark 170,000 citizens on a special voters’ list  and, second, 39,000 to make an active registration. As if VMRO-DPMNE was winning the elections with those 39,000 or 170,000 people.

At the beginning there were half a million voters disputed by SDSM, and that figure has been declining, it came to 200,000, as it was the difference in the 2014 elections, and ended with active registration of 39,502 voters … Where are the phantoms?

Todorov: That is a prize question. How many phantoms are there? The question is for SDSM. They talked about 500,000, 300,000, then 350,000 and 250,000. I do not know how many figures there were? They were telling different numbers all the time. And from 500,000 we came to 39,000 disputed, including the sister of Sekerinska, who will need to prove that she is a citizen of her own country. Tragically.

What do the amendments to the laws on the media include? You got back from a meeting, scheduled for the media sector, where all issues were closed.

Todorov: We wanted SDSM bluff over the media to come out as well. Allegedly, SDSM is fighting for freedom of the media. Can someone fight for freedom of the media and at the same time request MTV’s editor-in-chief to be appointed by the political party SDSM? That’s completely contradictory. Either you fight for freedom of the media and demand freedom of the media for real, without political influence, or you fight for political influence and control. By accepting this request, we have shown to the whole Macedonian public that SDSM is not fighting for freedom of the media, but for control over the media. With a desire to use the control as a tool in the elections.

Does that package cover the new media, the news portals and will the new body that will be formed cover them?

Todorov: Yes. It has been included in the Electoral Code, which was previously agreed and with the agreements that we have reached contracts, the period of application of these provisions has been extended from 60 to 100 days.

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Before going into negotiations, SDSM listed the media and the voters’ list as a precondition. However, there was the trap for governance and partisation of the Interior Ministry, as well as maintaining ‘caretaker government’ after the elections. What do you think, as a direct participant in the negotiations, was the focus of SDSM – the list and the media or the Interior Ministry and the longevity of that government?

Todorov: Everything mattered to SDSM, just not to reach an agreement. Everything that led to not reaching an agreement mattered to them. That’s why they had requests that we would never to accept, like the active registration of 39,000 voters, the freedom of the media through political appointment of editors, and at a certain point of time there was a request for a central body to monitor all media, to say what is good and what is not. The whole time they were trying to block the process with such proposals. Finally, with our acceptance of these proposals we made SDSM’s bluff to come out. They did not want to take part in the elections, but it is our obligation  to participate in the elections because that’s the only solution to the crisis in Macedonia. Only the citizens, and nobody else, can solve this crisis.

These two years of protests, agreements and continuation of the crisis created a group of people that first called for street democracy and then grew into hooliganism. And SDSM leaders, along with your partner in the negotiations, Radmila Sekerinska, were trying to use their popularity to gain, perhaps, better ratings, even with the direct participation in the destruction of buildings in Skopje. Now those people, according to the statements of Sekerinska, should be found on SDSM’s electoral lists. According to SDSM’s policy, does it resemble the list of anonymous before the 2014 elections, elections they did not recognize, so can that happen again? Will the crisis end with the elections or return to its beginning?

Todorov: What can be concluded from this distance is that Zaev even before the elections in 2014 knew that he would not recognize the election results. He took part in the elections so the elections ended, and he would not recognize them. And so went with the lineup of MPs he considered as no problem to get out of the Parliament, not to be there… Whether he’ll do that again, I can not say. Whether he will use again the tactic to participate in the elections and not recognize them, I can not say. I can only say that if he does so, he will cause a fatal mistake and continue the crisis in Macedonia. In Macedonia, after these elections, we should not let such a crisis happen ever again. In these elections the people should end this crisis and end this kind of operation in politics. Politics should not create crisis. Politics should solve problems. One needs to get in politics with program and political offer, which should help improve the lives of the citizens in every segment of society. If they understand politics as a tool to create crisis and through crisis to come to power, it is their fatal mistake and their policy will come to an end at certain point. In these elections, the citizens will decide that the crisis in Macedonia ends and decide that it should never happen again.

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Did you get such impression during the negotiations?

Todorov: I do not need an impression from the negotiations, it is an impression that many people that we get to talk to have and who are waiting the elections to be held so that the citizens decide. Because in this situation of constant negotiation talks between the four political parties, we in a manner have been devaluing the democratic society. Democracy is something else, in a democracy the people decide. And the people decide in elections. Depriving the right of the people to decide in elections, first on April 24 and then June 5, was SDSM’s fatal mistake. They did that and under what pretense? The voters’ list has not been cleared! And what kind of clearing of the voters’s list makes Sekerinska’s sister, Pavle Trajanov or Gordan Georgiev report that they are citizens of this country? SDSM has used a dangerous excuse in order to postpone the elections and prevent the people from deciding. And that is a very dangerous game in politics, to take away the right of the people to decide. In these elections the people will come after their right.

The agreement was greeted by the international community, its guarantors the EU and the USA respectively. What can be expected in case of violation of the agreement? This is a hypothetical question that often happen to us in reality.

Todorov: I hope that will not happen because I do not believe that SDSM will have more excuses. But, what can I say, everything is possible with them them. They have a leader that has legalized an object that does not exist. Nobody but him sees the object. When somebody has such a leader, I guess anything is possible. He can seea problem which does not exist. As it was in the past. They saw a problem in the voters’ list, the problem in it was Sekerinska’s sister and several other MPs and other prominent members of the SDSM. So, seeing a problem where there isn’t one, I don’t know whether just to see it or just to serve them as an alibi in order not to face the people and not to allow the people to decide. They are, probably, guided by the motto that as long as the people do not decide, they are safe, but sooner or later the people will decide. Here, the election date will come, the people will decide, the people will come after their right.

Will there be photographs of the voters on the voters’ list?

Todorov: It is has been provided by the Electoral Code even before, inserted in the bill. I hope that the SEC will have the technical possibility to realize that. We in VMRO-DPMNE welcome that, we have nothing against it, on the contrary, it is another control. VMRO-DPMNE has never, at least in the last ten years, since I’ve been involved in the processes and I can tell, made electoral fraud or vote rigging. VMRO-DPMNE has been winning the support of the people because of its program and because of its work, and anything else. That’s what SDSM can not comprehend. They do not realize that the people recognize you by your work what you promise to do.

I didn’t ask you about the photographs randomly. And the recent amendments to the Electoral Code were made at SDSM’s request, the electoral ink respectively. Now there will be photographs. Were there any other extreme requirements?

Todorov: Are there any more extreme requests than the request people that don’t have a Skype account not be able to vote? We accepted that request as well. It was one of those requirements that were completely illogical and when they propose it, you wonder why did we accept it, but we accept it in order SDSM’s bluff to come to light. So, the law that has been adopted states that three members of the SEC can ask someone to see them through a video link. And now if they are an older person or someone who does not use Skype or FaceTime they will apologize to the SEC and say: “Excuse me, because you do not have Skype or FaceTime, you will not be able to be on the voters’ list.” Is there a logic? No! But, it was a request, we accepted it to prove that this was not the reason they lose in elections and that it was only an alibi for the scenario of crisis that has been devised and implemented by SDSM.

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We will not comment the work of the SPO. The international community repeatedly insists that its work should be greeted by all political actors despite all criticism. But after all SPO’s public relations with SDSM – from the shared information to the conditions that Zaev set over the handover of the materials, their number – is it possible that SPO’s work will be abused until August 31 and then, until the possible December elections?

Todorov: You are asking if it is possible, well that is already happening. We have a particular situation. We have a man under house arrest because he procured 10 times cheaper transport than Zaev and 650 times cheaper than Kumanovo. So, we at this point have such abuse and SPO is being used as a tool in the elections and in the election campaign of SDSM. They are used as a political tool. SPO held a sensational press conference, where it accused Bitola mayor of paying transport more expensive than Tokyo. They condemned the man at a press conference. What kind of presumption of innocence? No one thought of that. As if the press conference was written for political campaign. And now we see that Strumica mayor and SDSM leader paid several times higher price from the mayor that is accused of having damaged the municipality with an expensive price. And after that we learned that there are others who paid 650 times more expensive price. In Bitola the transport was MKD 4.2 and in Kumanovo 2.400 denars per kilometer.

According to the rule the worse for Macedonia, the better for SDSM, as noted by VMRO-DPMNE, a brief skeptical moment was created regarding the Eurobond market, which costed Macedonia EUR 25 million. As Minister of Health, what those 25 million mean in the health care, what could have been done with that money?

Todorov: A lot. That’s a lot of money, which could be used for reconstruction of hospitals in Kumanovo, Kavadarci, Bitola, “September 8″, “St. Naum”, “St. Erasmus”, for projects on which we are working at the moment plus for procurement of new equipment, which if SDSM hadn’t damaged the health care in the country, much could have been done. And not only in health care, as a former minister of education and science, I can say that in that sector also much could have been done, schools could have been reconstructed, or in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, kindergartens could have been reconstructed, new ones could have been built, or investments in science could have been made, new laboratories, new sports halls … it’s a huge amount of money. Comparison can be made in every sector, and you will realize that SDSM has done some serious damage to the state and the citizens.

I want to ask you about the period when SDSM was in the Government, the period when the elections that didn’t happen were supposed to be organized. I had the impression that their presence was not directed towards preparing the elections, but abused for daily political purposes. Do you believe that тхеѕ will act the same ин the new transitional government in charge of organizing the elections, which should take place in December?

Todorov: SDSM entered the government as a result of the June/July Agreement in order to control the abuse of the institutions for electoral purposes. What they did was abuse of institutions for SDSM’s electoral purposes, in favor of SDSM. How else would they explain the massive party purge what was done in the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with massive replacements. They were made merely to satisfy the party appetites of SDSM. How else can we interpret the promotion of several ranks, six or seven, of the husband of Frosina Remenski, a senior official of SDSM, who became a minister proposed by SDSM. Her husband, contrary to all legal procedures and rules for career advancement in the service, got a promotion of several ranks, just because of party eligibility. We had 450 examples like this. It was a massive party purge made in the spirit of Zaev’s statement that when they come to power, they would change everything – from the minister to the cleaning lady.They didn’t come to power, they took control role and that’s what they did. Can you imagine what they would have done if they came to power? Probably they would make a total politicization of society and the state, while talking about the separation of party from the state. What kind of separation is when the husband of the minister got up seven ranks or all the change that they did which are based on only one criterion – party eligibility. They have probably borrowed that from the communist era, de facto that’s it.

Can we expect such cases?

Todorov: Well, that was the biggest stumbling block. We demanded the Interior Minister to have a control role and and to not be able to abuse the position for party purges. We have limited the number of replacements to 15 and 10 percent of the total horizontal replacements. Someone will say that that’s an insignificant number, but it is. What they did; 10-15 police officers from a police station were deployed elsewhere and they were replaced by other 10-15 policemen brought by the party. There were not replacements in management positions, but they were extremely important for possible abuses of the Interior Ministry for political purposes.

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Were there any discussions about other ministries?

Todorov: No, the key one was the Interior Minister, it’s part of the agreement that will be put into legislation. 

Let’s continue to your sector – the health care. “My term” has long been the system of operation in the region. Recently you met with your counterparts from Central and Eastern Europe. Can you asses where the Macedonian health care stands in terms of quality and reforms?

Todorov: The best indicators for that are the ranking lists published by relevant EU and international centers for the ranking of health care systems. Here is the EHCI indicator that is followed in all European countries, and published in the presence of the European Commissioner for Health and which is the most relevant examination and ranking of systems. Macedonia stands great here, it made a jump of 11 positions in just one year and everything that we have been working on was stated and valued by the experts of this body and all that has been done was assessed and Macedonia was properly ranked. For me it is the most important indicator and a confirmation of the right policies that we are conducting in Macedonia. If you ask me whether the health care system in Macedonia is ideal, it is not. Whether there is a lot of work to be done in the health care and whether there are many problems bothering the citizens, there are. I’ve never said and I will not say that health care is now perfect and that it needs no change. There is still a lot of work to do and in health care you can never say, ‘now everything is done’. Not only in Macedonia, but also in every country in the world, there are always new challenges and new problems that need to be resolved.

They are all facing same or similar problems. We have resolved a problem in one way, in another country it’s still not resolved, so they will use our solution decision, while, we, in turn, will use a solution of another country for another problem… Generally, it’s a constant struggle and that’s why there is not a unified health policy even in the EU, each member-state has a different system of regulating the health care system.

Marijuana oil for medical purposes has been legalized . Although it’s early, what are the preliminary results, is there any analysis?

Todorov: Considering the reactions of patients and citizens, I can say that they are positive, it is something that they have been expecting or demanding for a long time and now it has been realized. It is one of our promises we made and realized. However, in terms of medical effects we have to wait for the reports of the experts, and expert analysis can not be done in a short period of time. I can talk about what is the experience of the measure as the Ministry of Health, which is positive because citizens reacted positively, when it appeared on the market, citizens expressed great interest for the oil.

What will be the focus of health care in the coming period, elections have been announced, will health care be included in the new  program?

Todorov: Health care is one of the key focuses of VMRO-DPMNE and the Government of Macedonia and for this whole period we have shown that this is one of the key priorities through constant and continuous growth of the budget of the Ministry and the Health Insurance Fund, through continuing investments in health care infrastructure, purchasing new equipment, introducing “My term” in the system, reducing drug prices, many systemic measures that have allowed the citizens better access to health services and better health services. Moreover, training of doctors in the world’s most respected centers, which was aimed at enabling the introduction of new methods that have not been used in Macedonia, as well as enabling networking of doctors, cooperation with their colleagues from abroad, exchange of experiences and knowledge and so on.

 

By: Naum Stoilkovski
Photo credit: Aleksandar Ivanovski