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News 17 Feb 17

Threats Target Macedonia Opposition Talks to Form Govt

An outbreak of threatening nationalist rhetoric raised concerns as Macedonia’s main opposition party continued its talks with ethnic Albanian parties over a possible deal to form a new government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The decision over government is very difficult, said DUI leader Ali Ahmeti. Photo: MIA

As the opposition Social Democrats continued to discuss forming a government with ethnic Albanian parties, a mysterious group called Hardcore, which describes itself as a Macedonian patriotic organization, called on ethnic Macedonians to join a protest march in Skopje on Friday.

It said the march would be held under the slogan "No to Threats and Blackmails towards Macedonia!!!" – believed to be a reference to the ethnic Albanian parties’ conditions for joining a new government coalition.

In a Facebook post, the group dismissed claims that it is linked to the ruling conservative VMRO DPMNE party, and insisted that the march "is not deliberately timed" to coincide with the possible announcement of a new government, which is expected by the end of this week.

The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI is facing a difficult decision on whether to abandon its former government partner, the VMRO DPMNE, and join the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM.

The DUI says this depends on whether the SDSM accepts the so-called ‘Albanian platform’, which would give ethnic Albanians, who make up a quarter of the population, more rights.

Meanwhile renowned actor and VMRO DPMNE supporter Vlado Jovanovski caused strong reactions when he accused opposition SDSM leader Zoran Zaev of signing a deal “with the blood of the dead defenders from recent and past wars” – a reference to the 2001 conflict with ethnic Albanian insurgents, whose leaders then set up the DUI.

“THERE WILL BE WAR! A NEW WAR!" Jovanovski wrote on Facebook.

"How much does it costs to buy plastic explosive on the black market?" he added.

Unnamed sources close to the VMRO DPMNE told Deutsche Welle on Thursday that the main aim behind such rhetoric was "to send a last message to the DUI... that if the will of the majority of Macedonians is not respected, the people might [cause unrest]".

The same source was quoted as saying that the ruling party wanted to scare DUI leader Ali Ahmeti with the thought that “he would bear great responsibility for the possible destabilisation of the country".

In the aftermath of the December 11 elections, at which VMRO DPMNE won 51 MPs in the 120 seat parliament, just two more than the SDSM's 49, neither of the two big parties has been able to secure a majority of 61 MPs and form a government yet.

Both need the support of Albanian parties, which control 20 MPs altogether.

The DUI, which won 10 MPs, rejected the VMRO DPMNE's attempt to lure it back into a renewed government alliance.

The party now insists on the acceptance of the so-called Albanian platform, forged by all key Albanian parties with the help of Tirana, as a precondition for joining a government.

Ahmeti, whose party was in the government coalition with the VMRO DPMNE for the past eight years, told media on Thursday that it would take its time to decide.

"The decision is very difficult, we are analysing all the aspects and all the details from the SDSM proposition," Ahmeti said.

The SDSM has kept relatively silent in the past few days about its ongoing talks with the DUI, but party spokesperson Petre Silegov said it was optimistic that the DUI's final decision would come soon and would be positive.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a short armed conflict between ethnic Albanian guerillas and the security forces which ended the same year with the signing of a peace accord which guaranteed greater rights to the Albanian minority.

The new Albanian platform aims to slightly expand on those rights or secure their full implementation, focusing mainly on the greater use of the Albanian language and on the fairer distribution of the national budget along ethnic lines.

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