In power since 2006, the ruling party in Macedonia appears set for victory in the April 27 2014 elections, with polls saying that voters will return Nikola Gruevski as prime minister and, in the presidential elections the same day, Gjorge Ivanov to a second term as head of state.
If the polls are correct, and the outcome of the first round of the presidential elections on April 13 suggests that they will be, Gruevski’s brand of bullish nationalism, on which has been lathered lavish promises about economic growth and a renewed push towards EU and Nato membership, again have resonated with voters. Further, large-scale media bias in favour of Gruevski has boosted the chances of his party and his presidential candidate.
If ethnic Albanian voters repeat their large-scale absence from the ballot booths in the way they did on April 13, this too is likely to help the cause of Gruevski and his VMRO-DPMNE party in the snap parliamentary elections, and in the presidential vote, harm Ivanov’s rival Stevo Pendarovski who might hope that the ethnic minority would opt for an alternative to Gruevski’s hegemony.
Within the complexities of the approaches of the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia, as to whether or not to heed to call to boycott the voting, there is also a contest between two of them – the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) and the Albanian Democratic Party (PDSH) as to which would join a future governing coalition.
Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 per cent of Macedonia’s population.
BDI has been VMRO-DPMNE’s governing coalition partner up to the spat over the electoral method for choosing a president that led Gruevski to call early parliamentary elections, but in recent days, PDSH has been holding talks on a possible new governing coalition with Gruevski’s party.
VMRO and PDSH have a track record, having formed a governing coalition in 2006 that lasted 18 months.
A repeat of this scenario, however, could be problematic.
According to a report by the Independent Balkan News Agency, political analyst Ismet Ramadani said that if BDI remained outside the government, it had the political capacity to cause a crisis, as it did after the 2006 coalition administration was formed.
“This has been warned by the leader of BDI,” Ramadani said. “If BDI does not participate in the government, there will be a political crisis until the next elections.”
According to an opinion poll by the Centre for Research and Analysis – Skopje, BDI will get just more than four per cent in the parliamentary elections and PDSH 2.56 per cent.
The same poll said that Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE would get 43.32 per cent and the opposition socialist SDSM 15.64 per cent.
The outcome of the Macedonian presidential election second round on April 27 seems predictable. In the first round, Ivanov got more than 50 per cent of the vote but turnout requirements meant that a second round had to be held.
The poll, done from April 12 to 22 among 1406 respondents in the country of about two million, said that in the second round, Ivanov would have 47.5 per cent support and Pendarovski 24.6 per cent.
For all Gruevski’s apparent predominance on Macedonia’s political landscape, the campaign has been hard-fought, with the SDSM making public documents that it said raised questions over the ruling party’s purchases of more than 20 apartments, offices and building lots worth about 1.6 million euro between November and January.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev called into question how the party had been able to make the purchases, also asking, “how is it that only you (Gruevski) and your officials from VMRO DPMNE succeed in getting rich without any reasonable logic?”
Gruevski, also the subject of allegations by SDSM of accepting a 1.5 million euro bribe in a bank privatisation, and the ruling party both deny any wrongdoing.
(Photo of Ivanov and Gruevski: vmro-dpmne.org.mk)