VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski expresses assurance in an interview with MIA that his party will win the July 15 parliamentary elections and he will be the PM-designate, saying the number of MP seats would depend on the voter turnout.
I am convinced that the VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition ‘For Macedonia’s Renewal’ will win the July 15 elections and hope that President Stevo Pendarovski will give the mandate to the winning coalition. I am the PM-designate of the winning coalition, says Mickoski.
He says the State Election Commission (SEC) is undertaking all measures for a continual electoral process while protecting the people’s health.
We call on citizens to come out and vote. However, polls say that the turnout would be around 45 percent, unlike before when the turnout was about 65 percent. I believe that the days to follow will represent an opportunity for citizens to get acquainted with the programme we offer, notes Mickoski.
VMRO-DPMNE is already promoting its programme. The focus will mainly be on the economy. What are the key projects to attract voters?
The main focus will be the economy because Macedonia’s reality is a destroyed economy, an economy that leaves entrepreneurs, businessmen and citizens hopeless. This is not only a result of the pandemic that hit us. Of course, it has big influence, but it is also because of the poor policies of the SDSM-led government and Zoran Zaev over the past three years. SDSM has accused us of not having a programme, but we still do not know what SDSM if offering to citizens. On the other hand, we have produced a document of 360 pages that was promoted in Bitola. Economics professor Trajko Slaveski and doctor Sashko Kedev presented the programme because economy and health are in the focus at this time. We have not seen a programme from SDSM. They produce the same cliches and narrative as five years ago. We have a proactive campaign that we called ‘Project Renewal’.
How can this programme respond to the real needs of citizens, if let’s say, VMRO-DPMNE forms the next government? You mentioned the situation that the country, Europe and the world in general are in. Systems are in need of transformation.
The programme is rather elaborate. About 2,5 years have passed since I was elected VMRO-DPMNE president. We have talked with citizens who offered proposals, we also discussed with the business community and chambers of commerce. Considering the capacity of the party structures, party commissions and many experts, who are not party members, people from the country and abroad, they all have taken part in the drafting of this programme. The only thing that was important for me was that the programme responds to the real needs of citizens in the coming four years, but also the period after. We wanted to use more vision, strategy and clear methodology so that we do not have problems during implementation. We want to do this step by step so that everyone can easily follow it. Because three years have passed since SDSM and DUI formed the government and no one has heard what has been done and where almost EUR 12 billion have been spent.
What will be VMRO-DPMNE’s first project if it assumes power?
We will realize a number of projects in the first 100 days, but the first one will relate to the three denars of excise tax that SDSM produced. We will immediately turn them into one denar for sport, one denar for culture and one denar for education. The second thing will be to terminate the progressive tax and introduce flat tax, followed by its lowering from 10 to 9 percent in 2021 and to 8 percent in 2022. We will cancel many things that SDSM has done, such as unproductive spending, budget funds used for partisan employment etc. We truly want the first 100 days to be dynamic. We want to make a strong first impression, because you do not have a second chance for a first impression. If you look for excuses by saying ‘they were doing a poor job over the past three years’ and then say ‘we cannot implement our policies because of their poor job’, then we will be the same as them, similar to the past 30 years of this political swamp. We want to be the avant-garde, something new, innovative, to make a robust step in the first 100 days. We pretty much have the situation in our hands, know where to intervene, so you will witness a serious breakthrough.
Turnout will be a big challenge at these election. It was a challenge even before COVID-19 but now it is even bigger. How will VMRO-DPMNE attempt to attract voters and the undecided ones to come out and vote on July 15?
I agree, because the potential lies with the undecided ones, but the ratio of voters who believe that this Government is not leading Macedonia in the right direction and that this Government should be replaced is 3:1. However, this is not reflected on the turnout and yes, we will have to animate voters, especially during these challenging COVID-19 times to come out and vote. I believe that the State Election Commission is undertaking all measures for a continual electoral process while protecting the people’s health. We urge citizens to come out at every mini-gathering we organize. However, polls say that the turnout would be around 45 percent, unlike before when the turnout was about 65 percent. I believe that the days to follow will represent an opportunity for citizens to get acquainted with the programme we offer. I know it will stick with them and they will go out in masses on July 15 and support the offer of VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition ‘For Macedonia’s Renewal’.
You said that you are urging citizens to observe the COVID-19 measures at your events. You have personally said that you will not cancel direct meetings with citizens while observing COVID-19 measures. But you have been criticized by your political opponents and citizens that the measures are not entirely observed. Moreover, we are seeing other political parties holding meetings with citizens and the photos show the physical distancing. Mr.Mickoski, what if a spike of the disease spread occurs during the campaign and the finger is pointed at you?
It cannot be pointed at us because we warned, we pleaded at the leaders’ meetings not to force the elections. We said, let’s beat the pandemic first and not as Karadzoski, Filipche and Spasovski have done, but truly beat it as some neighboring countries have, and then have the elections. Zoran Zaev and SDSM did not want this and said we should learn to live with the pandemic, because the virus would be here anyways and people would die anyway. The second option was to leave SDSM and Zoran Zaev have elections on their own and win a number of MP seats that would have been bad for the country, considering the capacity of these people. That is why we decided to come out and beat them, and we will do this. We have mini-events, not rallies. We are observing the recommendations, 50-100 people. We simply announce them and citizens join in masses. We cannot say don’t come when they come out in masses to give their support. I believe that we, politicians, are trying to observe the measures, we are urging citizens to respect the measures. I have felt this on my skin too, because my mother is currently fighting the virus.
How is your mother now?
I hope that the worst is behind us. Although it was not that simple a few days ago, we are fighting as a family to overcome this disease. As politicians we should be responsible before the citizens and appeal for observance of the measures. We are a people’s party, we cannot campaign behind the screen or on TV. We will go out for sure. In circumstances when the Government issued a decree and intervened in the media promotion a day before the start of the campaign, the only tool we have at disposal is to go out and see people face to face, at a proper distance, presenting our programme while protected.
What is your view on the campaign over the past three days. There is fake news, propaganda, and VMRO-DPMNE is accused of spreading fake news and disinformation.
The main generator of fake news is located in the SDSM HQ but I will not go into this now. A vast majority of citizens are aware of this, who is the creator of this. We have tried to promote our programme, our projects, our policies before the citizens. In the opening 20-25 minutes I am trying to remind citizens on what has been going on over the past three years. In the second part I am trying to present some of the projects that are specific for that area, the general directions in the coming period. Finally, I call citizens to come out and vote while respecting the measures.
How do you comment the phone conversation that was released, regarding your meeting with Orce Kamchev while he was under special investigative measures?
This is the same conversation that had been released before. I believe there is another part of that conversation which does not suit them and that is why they are not releasing it. There is nothing incriminating in this conversation. A private conversation. Yes, I was in the hospital, I am going to the hospital these days too. They should not bother to release any conversations because my mother is there, I visit her, so they can record as much as they can. I have said in the past that I am a target of surveillance, a trophy for certain structures, and I will not say anything else in this regard. Criminal and unlawful governance, as we could see in several conversations and videos, should encourage prosecutors and judges to proceed. Oddly enough, this comes a day after the threat that a lawyer received about his client… Dukovski said in public he was threatened that his client would be liquidated if he talked too much. His client Bojan Jovanovski filed several dozen criminal charges against the authorities and presented evidence that represent grounds for suspicion over serious crime from the top down. Nothing to add here.
There are many reactions, dominantly negative, regarding your first clip with the stooped people, but also another one with the girl on the airport. Was it a calculated risk to produce these clips during the campaign?
Reality is tough. The reality in which Macedonian citizens are living is humiliating and maybe this is the only promise that Zoran Zaev made and delivered, the statement he gave back in 2008 when he said we should all bend our backs. Yes, it is difficult to face reality and one is not a better person if running away from reality.
But you could lose votes because of these clips?
We will see whether votes will be lost or gained on July 15.I understand SDSM and Zoran Zaev, it is difficult to see what they have done over the past three years, but that is why we are here, to offer an alternative to the humiliations, lies, crime, corruption, court judgments. We are seeing a former Government official putting stacks of money in his bag. This is difficult to see and this is what loses votes. Fortunately, citizens should not lose hope because we will have our head held high in the future.
How does the cut in the budget for political parties reflect on VMRO-DPMNE? I suppose the decision was made in agreement among political parties?
These cuts are part of the anti-crisis measures and we supported this. Our minister voted in favor of this move at the Government session.
How will this reflect on your operations?
It is difficult because we do not have Louis Vuitton bags, no stacks to put in our purses. We do not have lawyers asking for six million euros in bribes. But we will find ways to defeat them. I will use this opportunity to send another message. Our assets are frozen, unlawfully, by the dismantled Special Prosecutor’s Office, the office that provided hundreds of thousands of euros in fees for prosecutors. Our political financing has been cut to less than 30 percent, we are politically persecuted, our activists and followers are attacked on a daily basis, a government decree is adopted literally a day before the start of the election campaign. We won 380,000 votes at the presidential elections. while all others received 420,000 votes. Now they will experience a debacle, in spite of the pressure and everything they are doing out of fear. A person who believes in his actions has no need to do this, he comes out and wins. That is what I have done throughout my life, and I will do it this time too.
DUI has launched its campaign with the idea of an Albanian Prime Minister. How many votes can DUI garner with this idea, how do you see it and what is your view on their candidate Ziberi?
I do not have a high opinion on the candidate they have promoted. This move maybe devalues their initial idea because I expected a more serious approach and a person with more credibility. They are guided by some party analyses.
How many MP seats can DUI and the Albanian bloc win with this idea?
I am not aware of their projections, but the polls show that turnout among Albanians could be lower compared to the others, and I expect it to range between 170,000-200,000 voters. There are several options, including DUI, also the coalition Alliance for Albanians/Alternativa, DPA, the SDSM-BESA coalition. Some polls give the advantage to DUI others to AA/A, so the result will depend on the turnout.
Would VMRO-DPMNE enter into coalition with DUI?
VMRO-DPMNE will make coalitions with those political entities, with which we can agree at a programming level.
Talat Xhaferi asked MPs of parties of ethnic Albanians to support a majority in the Parliament that endorses an Albanian PM. Would you enter into coalition with DUI in this case?
My experience in politics and life has told me to ‘never say never’, so the statement by Talat Xhaferi was probably given in a surge of romantic nationalism. All I can say is that I am guided by pragmatism and realism, according to which the PM-designate is the one who gets the people’s trust. It is a fact that VMRO-DPMNE won back in 2016 but it is also a fact that the party did not manage to produce a majority in Parliament. A new majority was formed by creating a new principle. If you break the principle that is functional and produces results, than this can create problems. I would go back to the principle from the past, which is that a party winning most votes is the one to get the mandate from the President. I am convinced that the VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition ‘For Macedonia’s Renewal’ will win the July 15 elections and hope that President Pendarovski will give the mandate to the winning coalition. I am the PM-designate of the winning coalition.
What does this mean in number of votes and MP seats?
This depends on the turnout. If the turnout is more than a million, then the MP seat would be worth 7,000-8,000 votes. If the turnout is 750,000-800,000, then the MP seat would be worth 3,500-5,000 votes. In general, I am assured that VMRO-DPMNE and its coalition will win.
Do you remain on your stance of revising the Prespa Agreement and what are your plans in the field of foreign policy?
VMRO-DPMNE’s stance on the Prespa Agreement has been repeated on many occasions and there is no budging here, both in a positive or negative sense. Regarding the Euro-integration process, I am confident in the capacity of a VMRO-DPMNE-led government and the people at disposal, who are much much better compared to the offer of our political opponent.
Your message for the citizens?
First, take care of yourselves in these challenging times, considering the people who are creating these policies that fail to protect. Secondly, go out and vote while observing the measures that the State Election Commission has produced. Let’s go out in masses and defeat everything that has been taking place over the past three years, because this is the only way to build the Macedonia of our dreams and wishes. On the contrary, we will again have a stooped back, defeats, crime, corruption, Louis Vuitton bags etc.