News 21 Feb 13

New Macedonian Party Takes Aim at Social Democrats

Vlado Buckovski has announced the formation of a new party that will seek to supplant the main opposition Social Democrats - if the latter do not change their style and leadership.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Vlado Buckovski

Buckovski, who has been an outspoken member of the SDSM, says his new party will be formed in May, at the same time that the main opposition party plans to hold its congress.

It will be “a party with a civil orientation for a European Macedonia… a coalition of prominent intellectuals and businessmen” Buckovi disclosed.

However, in a sign that he is keeping his options open, he said the formation of the new party was still uncertain while he yet hoped for change within the Social Democrats at the May congress.

“I am still optimistic that things within SDSM will change for the better and that the party will experience democratization”, he said, adding that a change of leadership would be in order.

He denied allegations in some pro-opposition media outlets that the formation of the new party was directed by the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in order to split the opposition.

Buckovski succeeded Branko Crvenkovski as Prime Minister and leader of the Social Democrats in 2004, when Crvenkovski became head of state.

He remained at the two posts until 2006, when the party lost the elections to Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE.

But since Crvenkovski’s presidential term expired in 2009, when he returned to lead the opposition, Buckovski has been his stern critic.

He maintains that, under Crvenkovski’s leadership, the party has stifled different opinions and has failed to transform into a serious opponent of the executive.

Recently, Buckovski criticized the opposition's refusal to take part in the March local elections, saying the move could eventually marginalize the party.

Observers note that despite his open confrontation with the SDSM leader, Buckovski enjoys some support in the party, especially in the capital, Skopje.

“If Buckovski leaves the SDSM, it will present a threat to the party’s support,” said Vladimir Misev, from the Skopje think tank, the Institute for Democracy.

In an interview for Deutsche Welle on Wednesday, Buckovski said that the formation of the party was “partially” initiated by the international community, as a way of exerting pressure on the SDSM “for its irresponsible conduct”.

In December, the SDSM launched a boycott of parliament and has insisted on early general elections being held in March along with the local elections. The party confirmed last week that it will not participate in the local elections.

The crisis started on December 24, when the ruling parties voted for the 2013 budget in just minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were ejected from the assembly.

Some fear that the political crisis may derail country’s EU agenda entirely as it comes at a delicate time, when the country expects an all-important European Commission progress report, due in spring.

The EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the next report of the European Commission.

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