Macedonia May Not be Able to Stop Spiral of Violence

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The Macedonian Prime Minister has asked his country's parliament to declare a state of war after five soldiers were killed by Albanian rebels. The fragile state of affairs in Macedonia does not leave much hope for improvement for TIME Reporter Dejan Anastasijevic, who is based in Belgrade. What is the likelihood that the parliament will approve a declaration of war?

Dejan Anastasijevic: I don't think that they will approve it. The declaration of war would effectually give the power to the president and Prime Minister. It's politically a very volatile, complicated situation, and nobody wants to see the power concentrated in too few hands. It is a matter of trust.

And you don't think that trust is there?

No. I don't see a critical mass of political players from any party in Macedonia trusting the Prime Minister enough to give him this power.

I think that what we have in Macedonia is a government crisis in general. The coalition is not working very well; the Macedonian and Albanian parties are not communicating well. We have a very complicated situation, with not only a rivalry between ethnic Macedonian and Albanian representatives in the government, but also rivalries within those groups.

When the leadership asked for a declaration of war last month, international officials poured in to dissuade them — do you expect a similar chain of events this time around?

I think the same thing will happen now. I expect a sudden surge of diplomatic activities.

What about the coalition itself? Is the unity government going to survive this latest turn of events?

Although the coalition is surviving, even now the government isn't functional anymore. It appears that they may be unable to save the country from the spiral of violence. The second question is answered, no.

The bottom line is that they're not really communicating with each other. None of the parties are communicating with each other. And it's not really ethnic in the sense that you have the Macedonian bloc and the Albanian bloc. It's everyone against everyone. So we have a very divided and dysfunctional government in charge of a country which has a crisis situation. That's the trouble.

How about the people of Macedonia. Is the insurgency growing on the ground?

There's more fighting. And every single casualty, no matter on which side, fuels more animosity and more fighting in the future. The government has failed to achieve a short-term solution, which would at least calm the situation on the ground, and as a result of that I'm afraid we'll have more fighting and more political instability in Macedonia.

Do you see any possibility of an improvement in the near future?

I'm afraid not. I would very much like to be wrong in this, but what we have is a very divided government, which has already failed on a number issues from basic security to economy, and which doesn't enjoy very much trust among the general population. And on the political ground level, we have a low intensity conflict verging on a full-fledged war. So when you put it all together it doesn't bode well.