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News 29 Sep 17

Hungary's Orban Cheers For Gruevski in Macedonia Election

As Macedonia's local election race hots up, Macedonia's ousted leader, Nikola Gruevski, has received support from Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, and from Slovenia's Janez Jansa.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Nikola Gruevski and Viktor Orban. Archive photo: MIA

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Slovenia's former PM Janez Jansa have given a hearty boost to Macedonia's ousted leader Nikola Gruevski in the run-up to Macedonia's local elections.

In the resort town of Ohrid, the three of them held a joint press conference accompanied by some of Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE mayoral candidates.

Orban said the region needed "success stories" and added that "while Gruevski was in power, Macedonia was such a success story. Macedonia will become an EU member only if this success story continues."

Gruevski held power from 2006 until May this year. Macedonia has been an EU candidate since 2005, but its progress has been blocked ever since, partly because of a dispute with Greece over its name.

Orban, well known for his trenchant nationalist views, praised Gruevski for taking the tough decision in 2016 to close the country's border's against migrants passing through the Balkans to Western Europe.

"We count on Macedonia's role in preventing this swarm [of migrants] and that's why I always supported and will continue supporting Gruevski, because he is the kind of politician who holds his nation's interests above all else," Orban said.

Orban and Jansa visited Macedonia in their capacities as leaders of their respective nationalist conservative parties, the Fidesz party and the Slovenian Democratic Party.

Jansa also praised Gruevski and his party for their past achievents during 11 years of power.

"I will wish you good luck and may you have good candidates. I know what progress has been made in the municipalities that were led by VMRO DPMNE mayors so far," Jansa said.

Calling for fair and democratic elections, Jansa warned also against possible misuses by the new centre-left government led by Zoran Zaev and the Social Democrats, SDSM.

The show of support comes at a time when Gruevski's relations with other EU countries and EU representatives have become frayed.

Before and after last December's early general elections, he accused the EU, among others, of scheming to supplant him.

During those elections, Austria's Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, appeared at a VMRO DPMNE rally, similarly expressing support for the party.

Gruevski cannot travel outside Macedonia for now as the courts have taken away his passport after several criminal charges were filed against him and his associates by Macedonia's Special Prosecution, which is tasked with investigating high-level crime.

The October 15 municipal elections comes just few months after Gruevski's party was ousted from power in May.

His departure ended a years-long political crisis that centered on accusations that Gruevski has abused his powers, among other things, to spy on thousands of people.

Following the general election, he was unable to form a new government after his former ethnic Albanian partners in the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, refused to back him.

The local polls are widely seen as a major test of the popularity of the new SDSM-led government – and also of whether Gruevski can remain party president amid pressure from within his party to quit.

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