Jovan Despotovski, who is running for leader of the SDSM party following the resignation of Dimitar Kovacevski, acknowledges that the party is historically at its lowest point. Still, he believes that the next SDSM leader who will be elected at the end of the month, will become the Prime Minister in a future Government.

It is not an overreaction to say that the party is in a life or death situation. On the coming leadership elections it will depend whether we will get out of the mire we are stuck in. I don’t think we have the luxury to have candidates run for leadership, but then try to use the political capital to get the position of Secretary General or Vice President. Unification will not go through deal made with the opposing candidates, said Despotovski, who urged the other candidates who will lose the leadership race not to seek a high position in the party under the new leader.

He faces Venko Filipce and Slavjanka Petrovska as his most serious opponents, and acknowledges that Filipce has the support of former party leader Zoran Zaev.

We missed the opportunity to have all former leaders come out with a clear position that the race is open to all candidates and that every party member ha sthe right to express his opinion fairly, without favorites. But we have a situation where neither of the former leaders or party officials are supporting a candidate. There is a perception of support for some of the candidates, which creates both a positive and a negative reaction in the membership, said Despotovski.

The party failed to organize what was dubbed “the accountability congress” after the electoral defeat, as the majority of delegated did not show up. According to Despotovski, this is the first time in the history of the party that it was unable to hold a congress, even after previous major defeats. He said he is not informed that during the congress, party officials Mile Zecevic and Oliver Spasovski were holding a separate meeting with the delegates at a restaurant in Skopje.

Both Despotovski and Filipce faced serious corruption allegations for their actions while in power. In the interview with Republika, he acknowledged that the next leader could face a criminal investigation and that “all citizens should be equal before the law”.
Party members will elect the next leader on June 30th. At the moment, the party bureaucracy is updating the list of members, confirming whether they have paid the party dues, to be able to participate in the election. It’s expected that the number of 80,000 members who were registered in 2021 will be greatly reduced, due to drop in enthusiasm, and that the next SDSM leader will be elected by a far smaller number of votes.