The SDSM party is making up legal provisions in its push to hold elections in June, said VMRO-DPMNE Secretary General Igor Janusev, during a TV debate with Muhamed Zekiri from SDSM. Zekiri pomoted the SDSM position that the elections should be held 22 days from the moment when SDSM loyalist, President Stevo Pendarovski, declares an end to the state of emergency because that how far ahead the election preparations were before they were interrupted due to the coronavirus epidemic.

They are just making it up as they go along, Janusev said, when Zekiri made the claim. VMRO-DPMNE demands that the election date is determined with a consensus, and thatit is further down in the year, in August or September, to make sure that the citizens are not too scared to vote and the turnout level provides the necessary legitimacy. “The State Electoral Commission can’t act on the legal deadlines when a date for the elections is not set. And only the Speaker of Parliament can do that”, Janusev said.

Zekiri responded by promoting a conspiracy theory that VMRO sabotaged the police response to the violations of coronavirus regulations, hoping that the number of infections and deaths remain high and the elections get postponed. VMRO has partial influence over the Interior Ministry through the Minister Nake Culev, but most of the leading staff there was appointed by SDSM. The highest infection rates currently are found in Albanian Muslim majority areas in Skopje, where the curfew regulations were ignored because of the Ramadan iftar dinners.

The Minister stopped fining people and allowed these areas such as Cair, Butel, Saraj, Singelic, to have large scale iftars during the curfew. The police never went there to fine them, Zekiri said.

The police habitually has a more relaxed attitude toward law enforcement in Albanian majority areas, given the legacy of armed conflict from 2001. Many on the right have accused SDSM of trying to provoke an incident, by prodding the police to try and break up an iftar dinner, and then blaming the Interior Minister of being heavy-handed. For his part, Culev has complained that he is often ignored or left out during the Government planning of the coronavirus response.