The DUI party, which has lately dominated the Government it jointly forms with SDSM, held its conference today. Party leader Ali Ahmeti announced the lists of candidates for the general elections on May 8th.

One of them is Ziadin Sela, former leader of the Alliance of Albanians, who quickly turned from bitter critic to ally of Ahmeti. Sela helped Ahmeti divide the Alliance of Albanians, when its leader, Arben Taravari, decided that the party should join the Albanian opposition bloc. Ahmeti hopes that this will help reduce the threat from the VLEN opposition bloc, which presents a rare threat for DUI for the control of the Albanian vote, the likes of which Ahmeti hasn’t faced since 2008. For this service, Sela was rewarded with the top spot on the list of candidates for the 5th electoral district, covering his hometown of Struga.

Ahmeti rewarded another official who helped him divide the opposition – Blerim Bexheti will lead the list in the 1st district. He was part of a DUI faction that left the party demanding changes in Ahmeti’s inner circle, but then withdrew his opposition and returned to DUI. Ahmeti’s fellow commander from the 2001 civil war Sadula Duraku, notorious for turning off the water supply to Kumanovo during the peak of summer, will lead the DUI list in the 2nd district, covering Kumanovo. Turkish party leaders Sulejman Baki and Enver Husein lead the lists in the 3rd and 4th district, where DUI likely won’t end up winning any seats.

Finally, Ahmeti himself leads the list in the 6th district, where DUI hopes to win the most of its seats, but also faces the strongest opposition from VLEN, whose officials hold the mayoral positions in the two largest majority Albanian cities – Tetovo and Gostivar.
Ahmeti styles this coalition “The European Front” and campaigns on his close ties to Western politicians and on allegations that Macedonian parties who oppose him are “working for Russia”. His presidential candidate, Bujar Osmani, praised Ahmeti for the unprecedented successes he had while in coalition with SDSM, to advance the Albanian national agenda.This includes appointing another 2001 commander Talat Xhaferi as interim Prime Minister of Macedonia, after previously making him Speaker of Parliament for seven years, and taking over a number of major Government departments that were not held by Albanian politicians before – such as the foreign and finance ministries.

SDSM was desperate to translate this coalition with DUI into a pre-election coalition, with joint lists. But the strong pressure from VLEN forced DUI to go alone, fearful that a mixed list, and especially supporting an ethnic Macedonian nominated by SDSM in the simultaneous presidential race, would lose them the Albanian nationalist vote. Polls now show SDSM heading for major defeat against VMRO-DPMNE, while DUI basically even with VLEN, who are considered the preferred Albanian partner by VMRO.