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News 20 Dec 17

Leadership Contest Shakes Macedonian Opposition Party

As the race to lead Macedonia’s ousted former ruling party concludes, party members have demanded the postponement of the election due this weekend, suspecting it will be rigged.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
 VMRO DPMNE held its last congress in 2015. Archive photo: MIA

The central and the executive committees of Macedonia’s opposition VMRO DPMNE party have until Friday to address the complaints of some 30 prominent party members who claim that the election of a new leader, slated for this weekend at a party congress, will be marred by fraud.

“Only one candidate [for the leadership] is being favoured, helped and supported by the entire party infrastructure,” an open letter signed by party members, published on Tuesday, complains.

“Delegates are being pressured to sign behind one candidacy. Threats of exclusion from party ranks are being used against those who refuse to back him,” it added.

The signatories include two current MPs and potential candidates for new leader, Antonijo Milososki and Ilija Dimovski, a former parliamentary speaker, Trajko Veljanoski, as well as party veterans Boris Zmejkovski and Goran Manojlovski.

They did not identify the name of the candidate they accuse of applying pressure. However, the media have revealed that thus far only the party Secretary General Hristijan Mickoski, has managed to gather formal support from party delegates for his candidacy.

Mickoski is seen also as the choice of former leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. He, however, has denied allegations that he is secretly backing Mickovski.

The prominent party members in the letter demand the postponement of the vote from this weekend to February next year. They also want the inclusion of all local party committees in the voting process and the establishment of transparent mechanisms that would allow delegates to report pressure.

Meanwhile, the signatories propose the election of a collective caretaker leadership made up of three to five members.

If the demands are accepted, this would raise the number of delegates that will be able to vote for a new leader from the current 540 to over 5,000.

Antonijo Milososki, Ilija Dimovski as well as former Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki have also been mentioned as potential contesters for the empty seat. However, they have not made their candidacies official as yet.

“We decided that now is the time for a public reaction,” a party member who signed the letter but wished to stay anonymous told Radio Deutsche Welle on Tuesday.

He insisted that their initiative does not mean they would boycott the party election, but that it represents a last-ditch effort to unite the party around a new more democratic concept.

Gruevski announced his resignation earlier this month, after his party suffered a crushing defeat during October's local elections.

His resignation also comes after the party was ousted from government this May, ending 11 consecutive years in power.

Over this period, Gruevski and his leadership were accused of corruption and authoritarian rule. Many former high ranking officials, including Gruevski himself, currently face investigations and trials. They deny any guilt.

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