SSUKM Presidential elections
Candidates are running the last round, students – uninterested observers
On 28th February there will be elections held for a new president of the Students’ Union of the University Ss. Cyril and Methodius (SSUKM) in Skopje. There are two candidates. The campaign has started. Parallel with their presentations, the non-governmental youth organization Youth Educational Forum (YEF) has raised an initiative for collecting signatures for a new model of students’ organizing – students’ parliament. Most of the students do not know that soon there will be elections held for a new students’ leader and they are not interested to go to elections. YEF did not call for a boycott against these elections, but in the students’ circles there are rumors that there will be small appearance of the voters.
Ivan Andonov from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Samoil Malceski from the Natural-Mathematics Faculty are the two candidates that have this year “rushed out” for the SSUKM chair. Urgent reorganization of the Union is a promise that both of them point out in case they get students’ trust. Most of the students are confused as at these elections there is also an announcement for SSUKM reorganization by both the candidates and YEF, but so far they have not received a concrete model how it should be reorganized. Both candidates claim that there is no political party behind them, but they cannot convince most of the students.
Students are not interested in the elections of their leader
Most of the students do not know that soon there will be elections of a new students’ leader. Those who are more familiar with the students’ union are not satisfied with the Union’s work, they think that the organization is politically influenced to a great extent.
The fact that the students are not interested in their movement is also shown by the mini-questionnaire with twenty students from the students’ house “Kuzman Josifovski – Pitu” in Skopje. They do not know where the SSUKM headquarters are, in spite of the fact that the house’s entrance and the entrance of the Union’s office share the same yard and are only fifty meters far from each other. The number of students that will go to elections is small.
“We won’t vote. They always promise they will work for our interests, but when they win, only the students that have helped in the campaigns have privileges. Managements close themselves in their offices and they do not move among the students. We neither know where the SSUKM headquarters are, nor has anyone ever helped us. There are lots of problems, but in the Union they always say they are not competent” – students comment.
Candidates are aware of that reputation of the Union and they say it will be difficult to regain students’ trust. As a result, lobbying from a person to person is the campaign they are both leading. Besides the reorganization, Malceski says that in case he becomes president, he will strive for student’s record booklet free of charge. According to him, each faculty will have to provide student’s record booklets free of charge for the new students.
“I will engage an auditor’s company to carry out an inspection in the SSUKM work so far. Once a year I will engage an auditor’s company for inspection in its work. I will lobby for passing a law for temporary working hours for the students, membership in Campus Europe, forming a national students’ organization, where all relevant students’ organizations will unite, regardless of the national, religious and sex choice. I will strive for advancement of university sport, free Internet, consistent implementation of the Bologna process and realization of the European Commission’s programs”, promises Samoil Malceski.
Ivan Andonov, besides transformation and decentralization of SSUKM, also announces to work on transparency in granting students’ rooms, improving the relation student – professor, better informing about the new way of studying and reforms in high education in accordance with the Bologna declaration.
“I hope that these will be the last elections for president of such a Union. I will form a students’ employment service, for their practice and exchange. I will deepen cooperation with the local and international students’ organizations, I will organize campaigns against deviant phenomena among students, I will cooperate with the colleagues – students with special needs. I will improve the students’ cultural-entertainment and sport life of the students. I will initiate multi-ethnic projects” promises Ivan Andonov.
YEF collects signatures for a Students’ Parliament instead for SSUKM
The Youth Education Forum (YEF) in the course of the campaign for these students’ elections has raised an initiative for forming a Students’ Parliament.
In the petition for the Students’ Parliament it is written:
“In a time when the Republic of Macedonia has to work seriously on euro-integrations, strengthening the democratic society and creating an active young population, students face an out-of-date, monopolistic and corrupted system of students’ organization. A representative of this system is the organization SSUKM, which owns the monopoly to represent the students in front of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University. SSUKM is controlled by political parties, it forces all students to membership, with no exceptions, it charges for the forceful membership and at the same time it does not realize any students’ projects and secretly spends students’ money. Starting from the fact that such students’ system does not fit the democratic society we live in, it creates passive and scared students, opposes the constitutional law of free associating and does not allow wider students’ involvement, students think that pluralism in students’ organizing is urgently necessary. The students’ parliament is a model which will guarantee pluralism, it will allow competition, it will provide reporting on spending students’ money, it will attract students and protect students’ rights and interests. All formal and informal interested students’ subjects will be able to take part in the Parliament (organizations, teams, groups and individuals) that will be chosen at immediate elections by the students”.
Veterans in students’ movement are also split
Within well-versed in students’ organizing in the country there is no unique attitude on what is to be done about, as they call it, the students’ critical mass to move. Fillip Petrovski, the present director of the library “Braka Miladinovci” in Skopje, known as an organizer of the students and high-schools’ protests in 1997, thinks that SSUKM should be divided into smaller students’ unions, that students should eventually publicly say which party they belong to, he even suggests students-political organizations to be formed and he supports protests as a form of expressing power. The president of SSUKM in leave Aleksandar Davcevski says that it is good SSUKM to be divided, but there has to be one legitimate students’ organization. He strives for peaceful solution to students’ problems, through a dialogue.
“It is not by chance that the students are uninterested. There is a big power within the students and every country tries to put their organizations in its apparatus. Students’ movement can be a serious problem in case it is independent and free, as it can call on political action and certain changes in the regime and it can bring big headaches to the authorities. SSUKM is a classical example of an instrumentalised union that does not have its autonomous thinking and action. We have not noticed any action from that Union”, says Petrovski.
The lack of pluralism in students’ organizing, according to him, is the main problem why the students are an amorphous crowd. “The students dealing with their existential problems forget their predispositions and it is used by the leading cadres. For the students’ movement to be efficient, there has to be pluralism. SSUKM has to be divided into smaller organizations and organizing on various bases has to be allowed. If we want the students to organize themselves according to their political choice – let it be. We must not frustrate the students or accuse them of being politically active. In this way they will be able to practice and lead the country one day”, explains Petrovski.
The SSUKM president in leave Aleksandar Davcevski confirms that the organization needs to be transformed. He informs that a model has been prepared, however, he strives for a legitimate students’ representative.
“We have been working on SSUKM reorganization for a year and a half and we have realized that such structure is not good. We have used experiences from the students’ models of Slovenia and Finland. The organization’s model is very important, as well as the way of electing delegates and its financing. The Union would open a students’ service.
By motivating employers to engage students, thus getting tax exemptions, part of the money would flow into the union. I like the YEF’s initiative for a students’ parliament, but it has to be pointed out that there needs to be only one legitimate students’ organization”, says Davcevski.
He thinks that there should not be any division among the students on political basis and he strives for a peaceful solution to the students’ problems.
“Each student needs to be interested in the political conditions in the state. If the organization was financially strong, I think that it would gain bigger autonomy. However, from both political and financial point of view, students should solve the problems peacefully and through a dialogue.
How can we, students, protest, when in the country there are some kinds of protests almost every day”, thinks Davcevski.
Students’ campaigns resemble politicians’ ones
Five to six students are engaged in each of the candidates’ camps. They both have responsible people who organize their presentations and contacts with the media. Samoil Malceski’s campaign has been financed by his home faculty – PMF. He says that there is nothing disputable in that, as he had required it from the dean’s administration. The costs for Ivan Andonov’s campaign are covered with money, which, as he says, have been provided from sponsors. They both say that it is a secret how much money they have for their campaigns. Pre-election silence, that is to be proclaimed a day before the elections, is a novelty, being practiced for the first time in the history of students’ elections. The candidates expect incidents, but they announce assistance from the Ministry of Interior.