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Fighting over municipal boundaries

The new municipal boundaries

Besides enhancing both the responsibilities and financial resources of local government, according to the agreement municipal boundaries had to be redrawn. When a respective law, negotiated between Branko Crvenkovski's Social Democrats (SDSM) and Ali Ahmeti's Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) as government coalition partners, was presented to parliament in early summer 2004, it created more than heated debate.

The territorial issue was of particular sensitivity, because municipal boundaries could determine if a certain municipality would end up with an ethnic Macedonian or Albanian majority.

Along with Struga, Kicevo was one of the most contested cases. In 1996, the socialist municipality of Kicevo had been divided into five municipalities, leaving some 20,000 Albanians in two completely rural municipalities and thus providing Kicevo town with an ethnic Macedonian majority. Albanians now wanted the rural areas to reunite with the urban Kicevo municipality, while ethnic Macedonians were against.

The compromise between the ruling Social Democrats and their Albanian partner DUI was that Kicevo would be "reunified" in 2008 and not immediately. But this triggered huge local protest. A "committee for the rescue of Kicevo" was set up, including local SDSM representatives. In summer 2004 there were numerous protests, including the blocking of the main road to Ohrid on the weekends, causing tremendous traffic jams. After a couple of weeks, however, the protests died down.

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