After weeks of relative silence from the party, following its crushing defeat in the general and presidential elections, SDSM leader Dimitar Kovacevski today reiterated his plan to step down, and called on all key SDSM officials to do the same. Kovacevski blamed officials within the party for sabotaging SDSM in the elections.

My withdrawal as party leader is a high moral act in the context of our electoral defeat. It is based on the passivity on the part of the members and supporters of the party. The blow was inflicted not just by the citizens but by the largest number of elected and appointed officials at the central and local level. I will not make hasty decisions or point the guilty parties. Both me and the party leadership have responsibility. No-one is without fault. SDSM will have to look inward and think deeply about the poor results of the past four and possibly the past seven years, Kovacevski said in a statement.

He called on the bodies of the party to prepare a congress where the delegates will review the outcome of the elections, and organize party elections. He called for a “broad change in the cadres of the party, reforms in our organization and a consolidation of the ideology”. Kovacevski urged all officials down to the heads of the municipal party boards to resign and be re-elected in the coming elections.

Meanwhile, a leadership battle is in full swing in SDSM. The head of the industrial zones authority Jovan Despotovski is openly running for leader, as representative of the wing of the party loyal to former leader Radmila Sekerinski, which is mostly centered in Skopje. Despotovski has a log string of corruption scandals behind him, from the days when he led the Innovation Fund in the Zaev term, and turned this institution into a slush fund for SDSM party officials and their businesses.

Former Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce, who is close to Zaev, is also expected to run for leader, and Despotovski, in his frequent interviews, is often asked whether he sees Filipce as a rival. Filipce was heavily promoted by SDSM during the Covid crisis, and gained a degree of popularity, but also has numerous corruption scandals, some of which were recently re-ignited. Filipce also has the shadow of the disastrous Tetovo Covid hospital fire hanging over him.

In a recent interview, outgoing Defense Minister Slavjanka Petrovska also said that she plans to run as party leader. Former Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski clearly stated his ambition, but his disastrous handling of the issuing of passports with the imposed name of the country will likely disqualify him.