Experiences from twenty years of consociationalism in multi-ethnic North Macedonia

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In 2001 North Macedonia signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement which laid the foundations for a consociationalist system centred around ethnic identity. Ethnicity became important in state institutions. How has the OFA power-sharing agreement impacted ethnicised policy making during these two decades? I found that Macedonia’s consociationalist system shows the challenges associated with consociationalism in the literature: lack of democratisation, further division, instrumentalism, corruption, but also that the system has held through multiple crises. There has not been a resurgence of interethnic violence. On the ground I found a situation where ethnic groups became more divided by language as learning Macedonian is no longer mandatory. The groups rarely interact which leaves the situation ripe for instrumentalist leveraging of ethnic issues. Patronage networks benefit from the central position of ethnicity-based political parties in the system: the parties in government appoint government jobs to reward loyalty. Often the system is in a state of dysfunction but nonetheless it perseveres because the political elites have a stake in its functioning. Based on my findings I carefully recommend consociationalism as a method of conflict resolution in divided societies if the goal is to prevent violent conflict and create a modicum of stability.
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