Sunday, May 19, 2024

THE BIG “CLASH” OF 12 APRIL: WHO WILL FINISH THE POLITICAL CAREER?

The SDSM’s Prime Minister and leader, Zoran Zaev, faces heavy pressure from the “urban wing” within his party, led partly by Deputy speaker and Minister of Defense, Radmila Sekerinska, and partly by former leader, Branko Crvenkovski. VMRO-DPMNE leader, Hristijan Mickovski, strengthened the party’s position after a satisfactory result in last year’s presidential election. However, old party structures and numerous fractions may oust him from the “throne” if he fails to bring the party back to power. DUI’s leader, Ali Ahmeti, appears to be running the 11th round, possibly the last of his political marathon. Seriously challenged by the opposition, he wants to end his political career as a winner. ASH’s leader, Ziadin Sela, will have the last chance to challenge his main political rival – Ahmeti. Another defeat by Ahmeti would delegitimize Sela as the leader of the Albanian opposition.

Writes: Xhelal Neziri

These elections are also expected to be “life or death” for the political scene actors in the Republic of North Macedonia. How can this not to be so when they are early or extraordinary. Since 2006, the country has had no regular elections. That year the second regular elections were held after the 2001 armed conflict. After a half-year ruling mandate between VMRO-DPMNE and the DPA in 2001 a broad coalition reformed the Constitution and the electoral system in order to organize the regular elections in 2002.

Unless postponed to October, the elections on April 12th will be the fifth early elections in a row. The first non-term elections were announced in 2008, then again in 2011, 2014 and finally in 2016. This cycle of frequent, extraordinary elections is an indication of the ongoing political crisis in North Macedonia that continues for 11 years now. It all started with the Greek veto for North Macedonia’s NATO membership, used at Bucharest Summit in 2008, continued with French veto at EU Council Summit this October, which prevented the country from starting accession talks with Brussels. If in these political crisis suffer the state and its citizens, this does not necessarily apply to politicians. In every crisis, they see opportunities to improve their positions on the stage. Moreover, for this they always seek early elections, thus wanting to prove their power and convey the euphoria of the winner to their followers and the electorate in general.The April 12th election will definitely be another election clash, crucial to the careers of key figures on the political scene in North Macedonia.

The SDSM’s Prime Minister and leader, Zoran Zaev, faces heavy pressure from the “urban wing” within his party, led partly by Deputy speaker and Minister of Defense, Radmila Sekerinska, and partly by former leader, Branko Crvenkovski. After failing to get a date for the start of EU accession negotiations, Zaev is said to have faced severe criticism of the agreements connected with Greece and Bulgaria, as well as the adoption of the Law on the Use of Languages, by which Albanian gains the status of official language. These three moments, along with numerous corrupted affairs, have contributed to the decline in support for SDSM, so the eventual defeat in the election would mean a political end for Zaev and the “rural” wing of the party.

VMRO-DPMNE’s leader, Hristijan Mickovski, strengthened the party’s position after a satisfactory result in last year’s presidential election. However, old party structures and numerous fractions may oust him from the “throne” if he fails to bring the party back to power. The VMRO-DPMNE’s Reform Group, led by Petar Bogoevski, has already announced the new right-wing party “Macedonian Concept”. A similar step is expected to be taken by the eight expelled deputies of the party, who are said to have the support of the most powerful man in the party in the past decade – Sasho Mijalkov. The leader of this right-wing political initiative is said to be Mincho Janchev, the mayor of Kavadarci, one of the most successful mayors in the country and at the same time a philanthropist, beloved by the population. Another fraction within the VMRO-DPMNE consists of people who have been party pillars for the past ten years and who have been marginalized by Mickovski – such as Antonio Milosovski or Vladimir Gjorcev. All of these groups could undermine the anticipated victory for VMRO-DPMNE on April 12 and thus reopen the topic of electing a new President of the political entity.

DUI’s leader, Ali Ahmeti, appears to be running the 11th round, possibly the last of his political marathon. Seriously challenged by the opposition, he wants to end his political career as a winner. So far, he has led the party in eight election cycles – six parliamentary and four local – winning over competitors separately. In 2016, it marked the biggest drop in support, but again with a larger number of Albanian deputies due to the inability of the Albanian opposition to join a coalition. A few years ago, Ahmeti announced he would step down as DUI’s leader after the country’s integration into NATO. This goal is expected to become a reality early next year, when Spain will ratify the Accession Protocol, which is expected to mark the race for the next DUI’s leader. Ahmeti’s goal is to “exit” as a winner and leave the party in power, in order to prevent more serious cracks within his entity. The eventual loss of elections would be the worst possible option for him and his party.

ASH’s leader, Ziadin Sela, will have the last chance to challenge his main political rival – Ahmeti. Sela wants to achieve what his former leader, Menduh Thaci, has failed to do since 2002. Another defeat by Ahmeti would delegitimize Sela as the leader of the Albanian opposition and open the debate over who should lead the political battle against DUI.

The DPA, BESA and Alternative parties appear to be looking for ways to secure their presence on the political scene, thus gaining time for reorganization and re-establishment. BESA’s leader Bilal Kasami appears to be facing a crisis of finding a coalition partner. The wing that broke away from this party – the Alternative of Afrim Gashi – appears to be closer to the pre-election coalition with SDSM, but at the same time, holds open the possibility of a coalition with Sela’s ASH. Close to a pre-election coalition with the SDSM is Thaci’s party, which has also left open the possibility of going on a joint list with Ahmeti’s DUI.

As is rarely the case on the political scene, this time there are many actors and as many combinations for pre- or post-election collaborations. So far, only two collaborations have been excluded: BESA with Alternative and ASH with DPA. When it comes to the ethnic Macedonian parties, any co-operation is left open, which makes this election race more unpredictable than ever. / KPD

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