Although some experts and the public expected tighter battle of the Albanian political parties in these local elections, still, DUI managed to confirm the lead, with the help of SDSM, and claimed victory in 7 municipalities, whereas the BESA-AA coalition won in 4 municipalities
Macedonia got 35 new mayors in the second round of the local elections, which was held in calm atmosphere and with minor irregularities. At least that’s what most of the media and the public think, and similar positions are shared by the domestic and international observers, such as MOST and OSCE. The runoff of the mayoral race was especially important to the 13 municipalities with dominant Albanian population.
DUI CLAIMED VICTORY WITH THE HELP OF SDSM IN 7 MUNICIPALITIES, BESA-AA IN 4
Albeit some experts expected tighter results and battle for every single voter, as well as possibility of shifts in multiple municipalities and victory of the opposition, DUI, backed by SDSM, sealed the victory in most municipalities with dominant Albanian population and confirmed the lead from the first round. In the second round, DUI won in Tetovo, Chair, Saraj, Tearce, Dolneni, Debar and managed to retrieve Struga thanks to Ramiz Merko’s victory against the leader of the Alliance for the Albanians (AA) Zijadin Sela. However, the assistance from SDSM wasn’t enough for DUI to win in Gostivar, which in the next four years will be headed by Arben Taravari from the BESA-AA coalition. By coalescing with BESA, the Alliance for the Albanians managed to win in Bogovinje and Vrapchishte as well. Additionally, BESA’s candidate Blerim Sejdiu came to close victory in the Municipality of Zhelino. So, with three municipalities more than the coalition and with tight results, DUI have been proclaimed victorious in 9 municipalities, 2 in the first and 7 in the second round, whereas the BESA-AA coalition won in 4. Enver Pajaziti, an independent candidate won the mayor’s office in the Municipality of Brvenica, whereas Azem Sadiku from DPA won in the Municipality of Studenichani.
The numbers have confirmed that plenty of SDSM’s voters cast their ballots in favor of DUI. For instance, in the first round, DUI’s candidate in Struga won 7.916 votes or 25.80%, whereas SDSM won 7.140 votes or 23.7%. In the second round, Ramiz Merko declared victory with almost two times more votes – 13.945. On the other hand, Sela won only 3.868 votes more than in the first round. In Tetovo, Teuta Arifi, from DUI won 13.265 votes or 33.18% in the first round, and in the second round she claimed victory with 18.136 votes or 4.871 more. As regards the BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians, in the first round their mayoral candidates won 13.641 votes in total, whereas in the runoff, the BESA-AA coalition won 17.113 votes or just 3.472 more. In addition, DUI lost in almost all municipalities populated only by Albanians, i.e. in municipalities without the votes of ethnic Macedonians that could affect the results.
University professor Jeton Shasivari believes that DUI has lost part of their votes from the Albanian electorate, and owing to that fact, the votes of SDSM played a decisive role in their victory in almost all municipalities, particularly in Tetovo and Struga:
The analyses show that the overall results of DUI in these local elections, especially in Struga, Chair and Tetovo, would have been impossible without the complete endorsement from SDSM. Plus, the lower turnout as well as the small difference in votes won by the winners add up to the entire outcome, Shasivari says.
He deems that the irrational territorial division of local self-governments has been confirmed once again:
The irrational territorial division of the local self-governments has been confirmed again by the local elections, where the difference in votes needed for electing a mayor is evident. For example, the mayor of Vevchani was elected with 870 votes, while Bitola’s with 31.337 votes.
Shasivari also believes that there are no surprising results when it comes to the Albanian political parties. The biggest surprise for him was SDSM’s huge victory in 57 municipalities and the debacle of VMRO-DPMNE, led by Nikola Gruevski, which won only 5 mayoral offices. What’s more, VMRO-DPMNE lost municipalities such as Butel and Gazi Baba, where it traditionally enjoyed significant support.
Bujar Ploshtani, an analyst, thinks that despite DUI’s victory, which was won thanks to SDSM’s great endorsement, the Albanian voters want changes and political rotation in the Albanian political block. He also shares the position that DUI sealed the victory in many municipalities solely due to the great and direct endorsement by the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev:
The results from these local elections didn’t meet my expectations. The BESA-AA coalition had a chance to seal the victory through unification of the Albanian discontent, whereas the DUI-SDSM coalition managed to retain control over most of the municipalities that were under DUI’s control. Evidently, the Albanians want changes and political rotation, regardless of the hindrances they faced during the entire electoral process. The result from the first round was also a clear message for change, and message for unifying the Albanian opposition, which occurred, was sent, as well. The new coalition delivered favorable results to the opposition to a certain extent. DUI won in most municipalities because they were greatly endorsed by SDSM. This endorsement was expressed through the direct and strong pledges of the Premier Zoran Zaev in DUI’s campaign. Despite the results, I think that the citizens want changes in the Albanian political block.
THE STATEMENTS OF THE ALBANIAN LEADERS
“Macedonia has lost one Albanian party and now DUI can be considered freely as SDSM’s branch”, BESA Movement’s president Bilal Kasami stated, and also added that if just the Albanians’ votes are taken into account, their coalition would have won more votes than DUI. As he puts it, the victory belongs to SDSM, not DUI, and DUI wouldn’t have been able to claim victory in Tetovo and all other municipalities if there wasn’t for SDSM’s help in the form of votes. Zijadin Sela, from the Alliance for the Albanians does not accept the results from the second round in Struga, where, as he says, voters had been bribed and intimidated by party activists and the police of the “legal state”. “I do not accept the result” Sela said and pointed out that they will appeal to the Municipal and State Election Commission. He also told DUI’s president, Ali Ahmeti, that snap parliamentary elections are just around the corner and stressed that DUI has deepened the divisions between the Macedonians and the Albanians in Struga by accepting the endorsement of SDSM’s leader and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, despite his declarative pledges for life, coexistence and parity. According to Sela, all of SDSM’s votes had been given to Merko and this result is unacceptable due to the police intimidation of citizens, vote buying… “If somebody wanted to attack my legitimacy as president of the Alliance for the Albanians, I’ve become even stronger now. Ali Ahmeti, I’ll see you on elections”, Sela concluded. Bilal Kasami from BESA also asked for snap parliamentary elections, who said that their activists are ready for new elections.
On the other hand, Ali Ahmeti declared victory on Sunday night and said that the executive power will support all municipalities no matter if they control them or not.