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News 22 Dec 17

Macedonia Opposition Party to Elect Gruevski's Successor

Only one candidate, seen as the favourite of the outgoing leader, Nikola Gruevski, is standing in the leadership election for Macedonia’s former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, fuelling complaints about a rigged process.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
VMRO DPMNE's secretary general, Hristijan Mickoski. Photo: MIA

Macedonia's main opposition VMRO DPMNE party, which held power for 11 years until this May, said that only one person, the party secretary general, Hristijan Mickoski, is standing in the leadership election, which will take place at the party congress on Friday and Saturday.

On Wednesday, the party’s executive committee rejected complaints of irregularities surrounding the election that had come from more than 30 senior party members, including MPs and party veterans.

In an open letter, the 30 members demanded the postponement of the election to early next year, suspecting it was being rigged in favour of one candidate.

Although they did not mention his name, media reports speculated that they meant Mickoski, who is seen also as the protégée of the outgoing leader and former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski.

Gruevski dismissed these allegations on Thursday, insisting that he did not favour any candidate.

However, the open rift in the previously monolithic structure of the party which, during its years in power under Gruevski, was accused of corruption and authoritarianism, spells great uncertainty for the forthcoming party congress.

Unnamed sources within the party told BIRN that Mickoski had already gathered the endorsement of about 300 out of the 540 delegates at the congress.

Members of the faction that opposes Mickovski’s election as leader have not said whether they may boycott the congress, nor did they disclose how much support among delegates they hope to muster.

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

His resignation came 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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