Ali Ahmeti, leader of the ethnic Albanian DUI party, announced today that he has come to an agreement with Zoran Zaev for a joint, “consensual” presidential nominee of the two parties. The name of the candidate, Ahmeti added, will be revealed on Friday.

I’ve just completed my meeting with Zoran, the leader of SDSM, and we reached agreement to support a joint candidate for the President of the Republic of North Macedonia. I believe that this concept will win the support of an absolute majority of our citizens, Ahmeti informed via Facebook.

Zaev’s SDSM has been pushing Ahmeti for a while to agree to a joint candidate, while Ahmeti has been promoting the idea that future presidential candidates will have to be acceptable to the Albanians, meaning they would have to receive the support of his DUI party. It is widely assumed that the candidate would be an ethnic Macedonian, who would be approved by Ahmeti, although DUI has toyed with the option to nominate a Macedonian with some Albanian ancestors, or an outright Albanian candidate.

Most talked about are Radmila Sekerinska and Oliver Spasovski from SDSM, but also the Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and Stevo Pendarovski. The announcement comes at a time when SDSM and DUI were having an open feud through several of their members of Parliament, after the failed attempt to arrest former Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski.

The SDSM – DUI candidate will compete against the opposition VMRO-DPMNE candidate Gordana Siljanovska.

In a statement to the press, Ahmeti added that he had a substantive meeting with Zaev, performed an in-depth analysis and agreed that the concept of a “consensual” candidate should be introduced in all future presidential elections. Still, Ahmeti and Zaev will continue consultations with other Albanian parties, two of whom are in their coalition and two in the opposition, to see if they can get them on board as well.

The opposition Albanian parties BESA and Alliance of Albanians (AA), who are eager to show off the level of support they enjoy, have indicated they will run a candidate of their own. This comes after the DUI appointed Education Minister cut much of the authority enjoyed by the AA elected Mayor of Gostivar, which soured its relationship with the ruling coalition. With DUI supporting the same candidate as SDSM, BESA and AA could have a candidate who would sweep much of the ethnic Albanian vote, and even if he or she doesn’t make it into the second round, it would give the two parties a major bargaining chip in future talks.