The unexpected, unanimous decision by the DUI party leadership to nominate a candidate of its own in the presidential elections, despite the months of announcements that the party is seeking a joint candidate with SDSM, gave the impression of a crisis in the ruling coalition.

DUI leaders met in their Mala Recica headquarters near Tetovo days after its leader Ali Ahmeti met with Zaev to discuss precisely the so-called consensual candidate. This candidate, who DUI described as not necessarily Albanian, but acceptable to Albanians (meaning DUI) would’ve represented both parties at the elections. The Albanian group in SDSM, represented mainly by Muhamed Zekiri, mocked the proposal after DUI put forward several Macedonian candidates who have or may have had an Albanian parent or more distant ancestor, like Denko Malevski.

The dispute between the two ruling parties over ethnic Albanian voters, amid continued withdrawal of ethnic Macedonian from SDSM caused a deficit for this party, is making it more difficult to run the coalition. DUI also faced an announcement from the Alliance of Albanians that it will run an Albanian candidate, at least in the first round, exposing the party to attacks from Albanian nationalists that it is supporting a Macedonian for President and leading it to lose even more of its core support.

Still, DUI did not close the door on its proposal entirely. Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani said that talks wil continue.

The Presidency of the party empowered the leader to discuss having a joint candidate with other Albanian parties, or a joint candidate with parties from other ethnic communities, if conditions are made to have a consensual candidate, Osmani said.

Running political battles through the courts is the defining feature of this Government, with the trial primarily aimed at the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, but SDSM is turning its judicial machine against DUI as well, even though the Albanian party was completely spared from all the allegations of war crimes and more recent allegations of corruption, in its term in office. Osmani demanded that the press apologize before him after the media merely reported the announcement from Labour and Welfare Minister Mila Carovska that a 19 million EUR hole in the PIOM public retirement fund, managed by DUI officials, was due to abuse. Osmani’s enraged reaction surprised the public and the media, who did not expect such an open display of coalition infighting.

Still, DUI has another ace in the sleeve. If the talks for a joint candidate with SDSM fail, it is possible that the elections fail altogether, amid lack of interest. Presidential elections are famously low turnout anyway,which meant that they are usually held along with some other elections. SDSM and DUI are still thinking about the challenge from VMRO-DPMNE to hold early general elections along with the presidential elections. Either way, if the 40 percent turnout threshold is not met and the elections fail, the DUI appointed Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi will become acting President, giving the position to DUI by default, if only for a limited period of time.