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News 30 Oct 17

Macedonia Opposition Won't Abandon Mayoral Wins

While refusing to recognize the local election results – which saw a debacle for VMRO DPMNE – the opposition party says it will not give up the five seats it won in the polls.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski. Photo: MIA

VMRO DPMNE spokesperson Ivo Kotevski on Monday said the opposition party, which suffered a crushing defeat in just finished local elections, will not give up the few mayoral seats it won.

“There is no reason for that,” Kotevski told the media. “That way, we would only make it easier for [Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran] Zaev and the Social Democrats [SDSM] to usurp their [the people’s] will and accomplish their plan for complete power”.

Kotevski referred also to his party’s electoral mantra, which accused Zaev of seeking to use this power to trade away Macedonia's national interests, especially in forthcoming talks with Greece over the country's name and also over a new law that will broaden use of the Albanian language, which is now in parliamentary procedure.

VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski said soon after Sunday’s second round of voting that his party would not recognize the result due to alleged fraud. He demanded another early general election, which was immediately rejected by Zaev.

Election monitors called the elections fair and democratic. They noted several irregularities and incidents but said they did not hamper the overall process.

OSCE monitors on Monday said the second round was "competitive" and that the elections in general were democratic.

In the local elections, VMRO DPMNE lost some 120,000 voters compared to December’s early general election result, and won only five out of Macedonia’s 81 municipalities, four of which are in rural areas.

This result was regarded as the worst election debacle that either of the two main parties has experienced during more than two-and-a-half decades of independence.

By comparison, the now ruling SDSM, led by Zaev, scored victories all over the country. This party now controls 57 municipalities, including the capital, Skopje, the prize in the elections.

Zaev formed a new national government in May, relying on a thin majority, following a prolonged political crisis and 11 years of VMRO DPMNE-led governments.

Skopje law professor Nenad Markovic said Gruevski’s refusal to recognise the election result did not spell major troubles for the country, but served his own purpose, which is to try to avoid being overthrown as party leader.

“This is a big defeat for the party. There were probably some shortcomings in the election process, as in all elections in Macedonia. But the big dip in support for VMRO DPMNE cannot be attributed to those shortcomings,” Markovic told Radio Free Europe on Monday.

He said calls for Gruevski’s resignation from within his own party will now intensify.

A group of party members who seek the democratization of the party's workings has already repeated its call for his “immediate and irrevocable resignation”.

They demanded an immediate party congress, which they said should be summoned by a temporary party committee, to avoid Gruevski interfering in it.

“VMRO DPMNE members should choose between unification and a European future or the way of the past that leads to the demise into which Nikola Gruevski has dragged us,” Petar Bogojeski, the informal leader of the group, said on Monday.

The group accuses Gruevski of authoritarianism, and of ruining the party’s relations with both the West and with the large ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia, in his quest to retain power and avoid prosecution over a mass illegal wiretapping scandal.

VMRO-DPMNE’s top leadership has been being charged by the Special Prosecution, formed in 2015, with electoral fraud during past elections and with many other alleged wrongdoings.

The local elections were seen as a major popularity test for the new government under Zaev, which for now it seems to have passed.

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