The Failure of Macedonia’s Anti-Bulgarian Campaign
Recently, local elections were held in Macedonia. The most important part of these local elections was the race for mayor of the capital, Skopje. The most popular candidate, backed by the opposition party VMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization), was Daniela Arsovska. Suddenly, she was accused by the Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, that she had a Bulgarian citizenship, which was later confirmed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior. This commenced a large-scale campaign, aiming to discredit her, and smear her name, due to her having a Bulgarian citizenship.
This highlighted that the anti-Bulgarian rhetoric, which began during Yugoslavia, is still alive and well in Macedonia’s political elite. It highlights the immense discrimination Bulgarians in Macedonia experience. Over 100 000 citizens of Macedonia have a Bulgarian citizenship, and tens of thousands more are on a waiting list.
During the electoral campaign, one of the most important points was the relations with Bulgaria. On the other hand, Bulgaria didn’t officially state anything during the campaign, so that it stays impartial to the process. After the campaign ended, however, the issues have been widely addressed.
Despite the massive anti-Bulgarian campaign, Daniela Arsovska won the vote by a landslide, becoming the new mayor of Skopje. This shows that the citizens of Macedonia don’t adhere strongly to the anti-Bulgarian rhetoric of the political elite and the loud minority. This shows that the historic, ethnic and linguistic points of contention between the countries can be finally solved, leading to much tighter economic and cultural relations between the brotherly nations. This also means that Macedonia might finally be back on the right path towards EU membership, which is fully supported by the overwhelming majority of Bulgarian citizens.