Friday, January 30, 2009

Macedonia gears up for presidential, local elections

With presidential and local elections set for March 22nd, all of Macedonia's major parties have announced their nominees. The two largest parties both nominated political science professors, one of whom served in the governments of the 1990s.

George Ivanov, a professor at the University of Skopje, secured the nomination of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE by a landslide margin at the party convention. He defeated rival Todor Petrov 1,016 to 91. "VMRO-DPMNE ... under the leadership of [Prime Minister] Nikola Gruevski has ... created an atmosphere that unites Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, etc.," Ivanov said.

Before the two VMRO-DPMNE candidates addressed the party convention, Gruevski denounced outgoing President Branko Crvenkovski for allegedly stealing the last presidential election and not seeking re-election.

"He is afraid to face the citizens and ask for a second term, which is the practise of every president finishing a first term," Gruevski scoffed.

The main opposition party, SDSM, chose Ljubomir Frckovski, who also enjoys support from the smaller New Social Democrats. Frckovski, now a political scientist, served as interior and foreign minister in the 1990s.

"Gruevski chose a candidate he can easily control and opted for political confrontation. We are focused on defeating this harmful and isolationist policy," said SDSM party head Zoran Zaev after the selection of Frckovski.

Other parties advanced their own candidates. The ruling ethnic-Albanian party, DUI, nominated Agron Budjaku, a former transport and communications minister. The opposition Albanian party, the DPA, nominated Mirushe Hodza, a professor. She and independent Slagjana Taseva are the two female presidential candidates this year. A third Albanian party, PDP, nominated Nevzat Halili, its former head.

New Democracy, meanwhile, nominated its own leader, Imer Selmani. He served as a minister of health in the VMRO-DPMNE-DPA coalition government of 2006 to 2008.

The Liberal Democrats nominated Nano Ruzin, a former ambassador to NATO. Ruzin agreed to run after Srdjan Kerim, a highly regarded former foreign minister and president of the UN General Assembly, declined to run as the SDSM candidate.

The most notorious candidate is former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who spent more than three years in The Hague's custody for alleged war crimes before being acquitted. Boskovski is running as an independent.

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