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News 20 Sep 17

Macedonia's Ruling Parties Boost Ties for Local Polls

After striking a deal to form a government, Macedonia's two main ruling parties now aim to deepen cooperation by supporting each other's candidates for the October 15 local elections.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonian elections. Archive Photo: MIA

The main ruling party, the Social Democrats, SDSM and its ethnic Albanian junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, have confirmed that they are on the verge of making official their deal to support each other's candidates for the local elections on October 15.

This means that in most ethnically-mixed places where the SDSM has a better chance of winning, the DUI will support the SDSM's candidates, and vice versa.

"The names of the specific municipalities where our partner, the DUI, will support our [mayoral] candidates and where we will support the DUI's candidates will be known soon," the SDSM said.

The DUI's spokesperson, Bujar Osmani, also confirmed the forging of an alliance for the local elections.

"We have an alliance at the central level and we are considering strengthening that alliance at the local level," Osmani said.

The municipalities in which this cooperation will most likely take effect are not hard to predict.

For example, the DUI has not nominated its own mayoral candidate for the capital Skopje, strongly suggesting it will support the SDSM's nominee Petre Shilegov.

Likewise, in the town of Kumanovo, the DUI is expected to support the SDSM's Maksim Dimitrievski.

In return, the SDSM abstained from promoting a candidate for Skopje's Albanian-dominated municipality of Cair, where it is likely to support the DUI's runner.

Similar mutual support is expected in other ethnically-mixed municipalities like Tetovo, Gostivar, Kicevo, Struga, Debar and Saraj.

At the local elections, voters will choose mayors and council members in 80 municipalities and in the capital, Skopje, which is seen as the major prize at the polls.

The DUI-SDSM alliance is likely to increase the main ruling party’s chances of retrieving many of the municipalities it lost at the last few local elections to the then ruling right-wing party.

The VMRO DPMNE went into opposition in May, ending its 11-year rule after a prolonged political crisis.

The shift in power came after several months of tough negotiations, during which the DUI finally switched sides, and after eight years in alliance with the VMRO DPMNE, joined the SDSM to form a new parliamentary majority.

The cooperation with the SDSM at the local elections could also help the DUI retain its hold over many of the ethnic Albanian-dominated municipalities after it suffered a blow at last year's early general elections, when the party's support was cut in half.

This was largely because many Albanians voted for the DUI’s opponents in the Albanian bloc, but also for the SDSM, which was before that was seen as a traditionally ethnic Macedonian party.

Some opinion polls carried out ahead of the local elections have suggested a slight advantage for the SDSM over its bitter opponent, the VMRO DPMNE.

According to the latest survey by the US-based International Republican Institute, published on Monday, 19 per cent of the respondents said they would vote for the SDSM while 18 per cent opted for the VMRO DPMNE.

Seven per cent chose the DUI, five per cent said they would vote for the ethnic Albanian coalition, Alliance for Albanians, which is also part of the SDSM-led government, four percent opted for another Albanian party, BESA, while seven per cent said they would support independent candidates.
 
Twenty per cent of the respondents, who were interviewed during August, declined to answer.

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