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News 12 Jan 18

Macedonia Opposition Chief Struggles to Unite Party

Faced with internal discord, and with some partner parties leaving the opposition alliance, Macedonia’s new opposition leader, Hristijan Mickoski, is having hard time getting his MPs behind him.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Only about 20 of a total of 42 VMRO DPMNE MPs could be seen rallying behind Mickoski on Tuesday. Photo: MIA

Macedonia's main opposition VMRO DPMNE party insists that its MPs' caucus in parliament stands united behind the new party chief, Hristijan Mickoski, elected in December – despite growing evidence to the contrary.

“The caucus is strong and united. All MPs are actively participating in the decision-making process within the organs of the party,” VMRO DPMNE told BIRN on Thursday.

Mickoski claimed the same on Tuesday, when he rallied his MPs in front of the parliament to announce that they would not be coming back to the chamber until they see the release of the six VMRO DPMNE MPs detained in relation to the April 27 attack on parliament.

The problem was that only about 20 of a total of 42 VMRO DPMNE MPs could be seen rallying behind him.

The absence of some of the most prominent MPs, such as the former coordinator of the caucus, Ilija Dimovski, former parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski, and former foreign minister Antonijo Milososki, was striking.

Before the event, these three MPs told reporters they would not be attending but refused to state the exact reasons why.

An unnamed source in the party claim that internal discord, which worsened during the disputed election of a new leader in December, is still ongoing.

“Some groups are visibly dissatisfied with what is going on, and have objections to the election of the new leader, while there are different voices about the party’s future,” the same source told BIRN, adding: “Communication between different fractions continues, but to what outcome, I cannot predict.”

In December, Veljanoski, Milososki and Dimovski were among a group of party veterans who demanded the postponement of the election of a new leader, suspecting it might be rigged in favour of one candidate.

As the executive committee rejected this request, the election was duly held, and Mickoski won as the only candidate. He dismissed claims by some of his party colleagues that he was a puppet of former leader Nikola Gruevski.

The discord within VMRO DPMNE has reflected negatively on the entire opposition alliance, called “For Better Macedonia”, that the party leads.

On Tuesday, Jusuf Hasani, an MP from the small Democratic Party of Turks in Macedonia, pulled out from the alliance, informing parliament that he would now continue as an independent MP.

Before him, MPs Amdi Bajram, from the Alliance of Roma party, and Cedomir Sazdovski, from the small GROM party, also left the VMRO DPMNE-led alliance.

This means the VMRO DPMNE-led alliance now controls only 48 of the original 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament which it won in last year’s December elections.

The opposition-led caucus is no longer the biggest in parliament. The ruling Social Democrats control 49 MPs and, together with their ethnic Albanian partners, have more than the minimum of 60 seats needed to ensure the work of the government.

VMRO DPMNE faced a major challenge last year when, after a prolonged political crisis, it was ousted from government in May after 11 years in power.

Previous leader and former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, who is facing several criminal investigations and trials, resigned after his party suffered a crushing defeat in the October local elections.

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