The electoral duel in the municipalities with dominant Albanian population shall be interesting and unpredictable. On the one hand, there’s DUI backed by SDSM, and unofficially by DPA, whereas on the other, there’s the coalition between BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians. We must wait to see whether the new Albanian parties` coalition will diminish DUI’s lead from the first round.
Author: Drilon Saliu
Sunday, 29 October 2017, will be a difficult election day for the Albanian political parties. In Truthmeter’s analysis on the first round results, the experts we contacted projected coalition between the Alliance for the Albanians and BESA. They were right – the coalition was pronounced crystal-clear and it became reality after the presidents of these two parties, Zijadin Sela and Bilal Kasami, met and signed the cooperation agreement (18 October 2017). With this, the electorate in almost all municipalities with Albanian majority has been divided into two groups, right before the second round of the local elections. On the one hand, there’s DUI backed by SDSM, and unofficially by DPA, whereas on the other there are BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians, which will take part in the tightest race for mayor’s office in Macedonia’s history.
The numbers provide space for bunch of combinations that could pave the way to victory of the new mayors in the large and in the small municipalities with Albanian majority. Selim Ibrahimi, political analyst, believes that the race in the ethnically mixed municipalities populated dominantly by Albanians, will be tight and unpredictable:
Regarding these elections, it is difficult to predict the winners from the Albanian parties. The results were tight and announced creation of coalitions that will determine the winner in the runoff.
He considers that “there’s nothing wrong in the creation of pre-election and post-election coalitions between the Albanian parties and their separation in two bigger groups”.
Quite the contrary, that’s a positive move and provides new impulse to the political scene, Selimi adds.
He also points out that “there isn’t a specific formula for determination of winners of these elections”, but the decisive role will be played by the coalition partners and their party mobilization and program.
Bujar Ploshtani, an analysts, estimates that the coalition between the Alliance for the Albanians and BESA will bring victory to their mayoral candidates:
The coalition between the Alliance for the Albanians (AA) and BESA in the runoff is a good move, because, undoubtedly, some citizens yearned for such alliance. On the other hand, the DUI-SDSM coalition has been created in order to retain control over the municipalities. As far as I am concerned, the AA-BESA coalition has bigger chances to claim victory in this electoral battle. I believe that the candidates from the AA-BESA coalition will be favorites in many municipalities, including Chair, Tetovo, Gostivar…
VOTES AND COMBINATIONS
According to the results published by SEC, DUI’s at the helm in 11 municipalities and will face opponents from BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians. DUI’s leading in Gostivar, Tetovo, Chair, Saraj, Tearce, Lipkovo, Zhelino, Dolneni, Debar, Vrapchishte and Bogovinje. The Alliance for the Albanians and DPA have the lead in one municipality each, Struga and Studenichani respectively.
However, these differences and DUI’s lead will be lost, if BESA’s and the Alliance for the Albanians’ votes won in the first round are put together. Still, the possibility for simple mathematical addition of these votes in favor of the new BESA-Alliance for the Albanians coalition remains uncertain, taking into account their past political “war” and the short period of time for presenting a stable and confidential coalition before the citizens. Also, the individual approach of every voter should not be disregarded, which is especially important when it comes to local elections where the mayoral candidate’s profile might have a decisive role.
DPA’s standing, as well as Macedonians’ votes, in municipalities populated dominantly by Albanians will have a significant impact on the determination of winners in the runoff. It is more and more apparent that DPA will endorse DUI’s candidate, whereas VMRO-DPMNE’s votes are expected to be won by their opponents. However, up to and including 24 October 2017, VMRO-DPMNE hasn’t declared their official stance regarding the endorsement of any Albanian parties in the runoff.
CAMPAIGN AND ALLIANCES
The election campaign in the second round ends on 27 October 2017, and unlike the first round, it hasn’t been concentrated on solving the local problems, yet has placed the “strategic coalitions” and political calculations and accusations addressed to opponents in the limelight.
For instance, the Tetovo campaign of BESA and Bilal Kasami has been concentrated on the cooperation with the Alliance for the Albanians, by promoting unity and emphasizing the endorsement of the new coalition partner (AA). In fact, all candidates from BESA and AA who lost in the first round publicly called their voters to cast the ballots in favor of the new coalition and the candidates partaking in the runoff, thus against DUI’s candidates.
On the other hand, DUI and their candidates stress the endorsement of the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his attendance at the rallies during this campaign. All of this motivated Bilal Kasami and the new BESA-AA coalition to blame the P.M. Zoran Zaev. And when it comes to DUI, they blamed the BESA-AA alliance, calling it “unprincipled and artificial coalition”.
Further, it’s worth mentioning that the incumbent mayor of Tetovo and DUI’s candidate for another tenure, Teuta Arifi, started the runoff campaign by visiting Albania and meeting the President, Ilir Meta, and Tirana’s mayor, Erion Velija.
In the thick of the campaign, the Minister of Interior Oliver Spasovski made a statement for the 360 Degrees TV show airing on Alsat-M TV station, which drew a significant amount of attention, by saying that “the BESA-AA coalition directly helps VMRO-DPMNE”.