Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani dismissed the option that his DUI party would form a pre-election coalition with its governing partner SDSM, which has been eating away that the DUI voting base for years.

I believe that all of us, every political party, need to appear before the voters and win their trust, and afterwards we can talk about coalitions. I do not discount the option to form a coalition with SDSM. I’m opposed to the process of removing the ethnicity from the Albanian political scene, or any political scene in Macedonia, Osmani said.

SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev insisted that he will soon begin talks with DUI to form a pre-election coalition.

SDSM made its first major outreach toward Albanian voters in 2016, and its Albanian wing, led by Muhamed Zekiri, badly damaged DUI in those elections. The Ali Ahmeti led party fears it will be swallowed whole if it allows SDSM to continue on this course, as it lost even the symbolically important Aracinovo mayoral race in 2017 to SDSM. The parties formed a pre-election coalition to elect Stevo Pendarovski as President, but Ahmeti said that general elections are a different matter.

SDSM and DUI combined were roughly even in power to VMRO-DPMNE at the first round of the presidential elections earlier this year, conducted before the major racketeering scandals were fully knwon and before the European Council denied Macedonia its date to open EU accession talks even after the humiliating name change. Zaev’s calls for a pre-election coalition are seen as likely driven by his fear that he will lose to VMRO-DPMNE in a one on one confrontation, but might pull off another draw if he has the DUI votes in his corner from the start.

Osmani, who is in charge of EU accession, also discussed the French veto. He said that Macedonia will be open to the new enlargement methodology announced by French President Emmanuel Macron, but only if it leads toward full EU membership.