Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski is establishing himself as the main opponent of the continued SDSM coalition with the ethnic Albanian DUI party, likely over his presidential ambitions.

In an interview with 1TV on Wednesday, Spasovski announced criminal charges against DUI, while at the same time rejecting the concept of having a joint “consensual” presidential candidate with the Albanian party.

Political parties should not be afraid of fighting crime, even if it is in their own ranks. That strengthens the capacity of the political parties and improves trust in them, Spasovski said about DUI.

DUI has been dogged by charges of corruption during its 13 years in office, but has never faced a serious corruption investigation, and its leadership also received pardons for the war crimes they perpetrated in the 2001 war. SDSM raised the issue of alleged abuse in the PIOM state retirement fund, ran by DUI, and this sparked a confrontation within the party, with DUI officials demanding an apology both from SDSM but also from journalists who reported the SDSM claims. DUI leader Ali Ahmeti recently faced a revolt in the party when several officials were told to be under investigation by the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), but it is expected that the charges will be dropped after the Supreme Court ruled that the SPO can’t initiate new cases after mid 2017.

Equally revealing were Spasovski’s comments about the presidential race. He defended the SDSM decision to being a party procedure to select the next candidate, a move which prompted criticism from Ahmeti.

We follow the party statute. The selection process began through our local branches and the candidate will be selected in the proper procedure. The Republic of Macedonia needs a brave visionary who will support NATO and EU and will reform the office of the President, Spasovski said, adding that the country doesn’t necessarily need a “consensual” candidate.

Spasovski acknowledged that SDSM will consult with coalition partners in the remaining time until March 3rd, when the candidate should be chosen, and he defended the delay in the selection with the pressing talks with Greece and Bulgaria. DUI floated the names of several ethnic Macedonian politicians from the left who have at least some Albanian ancestry as potential joint SDSM – DUI candidates, but Spasovski said that the concept of “one society for all” is yielding results even without having such a presidential candidate.

SDSM and DUI are involved in a growing dispute over the ethnic Albanian votes, which are essential for DUI but are also increasingly important for SDSM as this party loses its ethnic Macedonian supporters.