Warning over potential “Russian scenario” riots after North Macedonia elections

Warning over potential “Russian scenario” riots after North Macedonia elections
North Macedonia will hold presidential and parliamentary elections this spring. / Dimitris Vetsikas via Pixabay
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 19, 2024

The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the junior coalition partner in North Macedonia's government, has warned of the possibility of riots erupting in the country after the May parliamentary elections, the party announced on March 18.

According to the DUI disturbances could erupt based on what they term a "Russian scenario”, that could be coordinated between Albanian and Macedonian opposition parties, particularly VMRO-DPMNE and Levica (the Left).

While specific details regarding this purported scenario remain undisclosed, DUI expressed deep concern over what it said were coordinated efforts by opposition parties to undermine the electoral process and sow political unrest.

The party pointed a finger at the opposition's treatment of the DUI’s presidential candidate Bujar Osmani and interim Prime Minister Talat Xhaferi, accusing them of perpetuating a narrative aligned with Russian interests.

The DUI has called on opposition groups to conduct their election campaigns in adherence to European and democratic values, cautioning against actions that could jeopardise the country's European aspirations and potentially align it closer with Moscow's interests.

The DUI views these elections as pivotal for North Macedonia's future, stressing the need to reject Russian influence and reaffirm the country's commitment to European integration.

“[W]e welcome the decision of the OSCE/ODIHR to follow the elections of April 24 and May 8 with 24 long-term observers and 300 short-term observers, as we estimate that these elections will be decisive for the future of the country — “Yes to Europe", "No to Russia,” the DUI said in a statement.

On March 19, the DUI’s leader Ali Ahmeti explicitly pointed to what he described as Russian infiltration through political parties and media outlets sympathetic to Moscow's agenda, Slobodna Evropa reported.

He alleged that certain parties and television stations are influenced by figures like Aleksandar Dugin, a prominent Russian political thinker known for his ultranationalist views. According to Ahmeti, Russia seeks to foment instability in North Macedonia and the wider Balkans to justify its expansionist ambitions.

Ahmeti's remarks come on the heels of the signing of a coalition agreement between the DUI and Skender Rexhepi's People's Movement, forming the European Front coalition ahead of the elections.

According to the latest polls, voters favour the opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE, expressing dissatisfaction with the ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) and DUI due to unmet promises and perceived lack of achievements. Within the ethnic Albanian bloc, DUI remains the most favoured party in terms of support.

The first round of presidential elections is set for April 24, followed by the second round on May 8, coinciding with the parliamentary elections. Official election campaigns will commence on April 4 for the presidential elections and on April 18 for the parliamentary elections.