The ink wasn’t dry on the special law the SDSM led majority adopted in Parliament to pay 33 million EUR to the Makpetrol oil company, and Makpetrol’s Telma TV was out with a new poll. It showed SDSM ahead of VMRO-DPMNE by half a point, and more notably, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev ahead of VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski by 11 points.

The poll comes after months of blows for Zaev’s Government, mainly in the humiliating loss of EU accession prospects, where Bulgaria vetoed Macedonia even after Zaev agreed to numerous concessions. Zaev’s promise of a complete surrender to Bulgaria, which he has since semi-reversed, caused a major faction in his SDSM party, with former party leader Branko Crvenkovski and a number of former top officials calling on Zaev to step down. Still, this was completely ignored in the poll broadcast by Telma in cooperation with the SDSM aligned M-Prospekt agency. The results published by Telma are close to what was seen in the July 15 “corona elections”, which were marked by exceptionally low turnout, high bribery levels and a short lived period of renewed optimism that Zaev will deliver on the EU front.

The poll’s publication after days of bitter fighting in the Parliament between VMRO and SDSM over the Makpetrol law, which inevitably had Telma TV at the center of attention, caused ridicule on the social media. “Here come the poll results on SDSM TV”, “You can do better for 33 million EUR” and “for 33 million, you could have Zaev lead Mickoski 111 percent, not just 11 percent”, were some of the comments in the public, especially after SDSM spokesman Kostadin Kostadinov touted the poll results. VMRO-DPMNE warned that one of the elements of the Makpetrol deal is to influence the editorial policy of Telma TV, and turn it even more supportive of the Zaev Government than it usually is.

Telma TV and Makpetrol intervened in the Parliament debate, insisting that the deal is fair and demanding that the opposition parties stop challenging it. According to VMRO, the deal is openly corrupt, as it greatly overvalues Makpetrol’s share of the disputed GAMA pipeline as well as the overall value of the pipeline. State officials refused to sign off on the settlement deal Prime Minister Zaev reached with Makpetrol owner Andreja Josifovski for fear of future accountability, and that is why Zaev insisted to ram the law through Parliament, under the very unusual option of a special law, that will, in theory, protect all involved from criminal charges.

VMRO today called on President Pendarovski not to sign the law. “The pardoned criminal Zoran Zaev is hiding behind the members of Parliament who adopted the harmful Makpetrol law for him. The Government couldn’t find money to buy coronavirus vaccines, but smuggled through a law that would net 33 million EUR to Makpetrol. That is why we call on President Stevo Pendarovski not to sign this criminal law”, the opposition party said.