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News 24 Nov 14

New Macedonia Albanian Party Denies Erdogan Link

A newly-formed ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia has denied allegations that it is a ‘subsidiary’ of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The new party, called Besa (‘Oath’), which was formally established at the weekend, denied claims that it was connected to the Turkish President but said that the suggestion was flattering.

“We accept such comments only as a compliment and as proof that we are not the same [as other ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia]. On a contrary, we are different from them,” said Afrim Gashi, a former journalist and one of the founders of the new party.

The other ethnic Albanian parties, the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, and the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, did not welcome the formation of Besa, saying there was no more room for a third force in the ethnic Albanian politics in the country.

“From what I read I am under the impression that Besa is a bigger threat for the Turkish parties [in Macedonia] and not so much for the Albanian parties,” said Artan Grubi, the chief of DUI head Ali Ahmeti’s office, in an interview for the Albanian-language portal Journal.

Grubi hinted that the new party had Turkish connections and suggested that these could damage its chances of winning votes.

“Foreign ideologies do great damage to national processes and history has shown that they have never been accepted by the Albanians,” he said.

But Besa co-founder Gashi, said that the party was not a foreign creation and would seriously challenge the DUI’s and DPA’s hold over the ethnic Albanian electorate.

“Besa’s aim will be to start a genuine debate on important topics [from the sphere of] politics, economy, culture, education, health… and to articulate a new political thought which will be based on universal human values and which will be different from the state we have today. Besa aims to sensitise Albanians and all the others about inequality, injustice and lack of freedom in this country,” he said.

The new party says it will promote the concept that all ethnicities should be equal.

Political analyst Ismet Ramadani said Besa has a chance of success, but only if it appeals to the many people dissatisfied with the current Albanian parties.

“Unlike some previous initiatives which failed, this one could prove to be more serious,” Ramadani said.

“If Besa manages to appeal to young Albanian intellectuals and students and to undecided voters, if it persuades them that it will hold to its own path, then it has a chance, a serious chance to take a chunk from the already established parties,” he added

Albanians make up roughly a quarter of Macedonia’s population of 2.1 million. But estimates have suggested that roughly 40 per cent of them did not vote at the last polls.

At the March general election, the DUI won some 160,000 votes while the DPA won some 60,000.

Attempts to form a third ethnic Albanian party that would seriously oppose the already established DUI and DPA have so far failed.

DUI outcast Imer Selmani formed the New Democracy party in 2008, and in the 2009 presidential race he managed to come third. But the party has suffered serious defeats at parliamentary and local elections since then, and Selmani resigned in 2011.

The former mayor of Gostivar, Rufi Osmani, formed the National Democratic Rebirth party in 2011 and won two seats in parliament at elections held the same year. But Osmani resigned this year after his party won just a single seat at the elections in March.

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