Macedonia’s governing VMRO-DPMNE and its Coalition for Better Macedonia held the main rally of its campaign for the upcoming election in Skopje on November 27, attended by tens of thousands of supporters.
Macedonia will hold a snap election on December 11, seen as a way for the country to overcome the long-standing political crisis, provoked by the wiretapping scandal that erupted last year. The leaked tapes appeared to reveal corruption among VMRO-DPMNE's senior officials, including ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. However, recent polls suggest that the governing party may win again, despite the scandal, which could provoke a prolongation of the political turmoil.
Around 80,000 people attended the rally, according to the news portal Kurir.
In a 50-minute speech, VMRO-DPMNE leader Gruevski promised new jobs, a reduction of the jobless rate to 17%-18% within four years (from the current 24%), as well as higher pensions and salaries, according to a live broadcast.
Gruevski was prime minister from 2006 until early 2016, when he stepped down as part of EU/US-brokered Przino agreement for overcoming the crisis. He said he will run for re-election next month.
Gruevski also guaranteed financial support for private companies, the provision of new equipment for hospitals, €600mn in subsidies to farmers as well as the construction of motorways.
For Skopje, VMRO-DPMNE’s leader mentioned projects to provide electric city buses, build a gas network in the capital and open new university dormitories.
In an unusual move, Gruevski urged supporters of his main opponent, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), to vote for VMRO-DPMNE in the election.
“Think well for whom you’ll cast your vote for. Choose Macedonia, an independent, sovereign and unitary country,” Gruevski said in his speech.
Gruevski accused SDSM’s leader Zoran Zaev of working against the country’s national interests and said that many SDSM members do not support Zaev’s plans.
Zaev was criticised by VMRO-DPMNE as posing a threat to the country’s integrity as he advocates an idea for the federalisation of the country and the introduction of the Albanian language across Macedonia.
“We will improve some weaknesses in the future, and you [SDSM supporters] can count on us,” Gruevski added.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Institute for Democracy, Societas Civilis, (IDSCS) in cooperation with broadcaster Telma, whose results were revealed on November 25, showed that VMRO-DPMNE would win the upcoming election with support from 23.7% of those surveyed while 18.9% opted for the SDSM.
The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the junior partner in the coalition government, was supported by 6.2% of those surveyed, while 3.3% said they would vote for the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA). Surprisingly, 6% of ethnic Albanians said they supported the SDSM rather than one of the two ethnic Albanian parties. 33% of the respondents were undecided.
The survey was conducted in the period November 6-20. VMRO-DPMNE was mainly supported by employees in the public administration and pensioners, the poll showed.
Criminal cases revealed by the SDSM, which released the wiretapped conversations last year, are presently under investigation by the Special Prosecution Office (SPO), set up under the 2015 Przino agreement. According to SPO, whose work is greatly obstructed by the governing party, current and former secret police officials were allegedly involved in the eavesdropping. Gruevski’s support has remained high in recent polls even though he is under investigation by the SPO.
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