Zoran Zaev began the online congress of his SDSM party typically, claiming that Macedonia was devastated by the previous, VMRO-DPMNE led Government, and that he is trying to lift it up. He cited the increase in salaries and retirement incomes, and especially the welfare payments, while also claiming that his Government built 500 kilometers of new roads (probably counting two highways almost fully completed under the Gruevski term).

After the introduction, Zaev expressed his gratitude to Radmila Sekerinska, who co-led the party with him since 2013, and who is now withdrawing from the powerful position of deputy party leader. It is precisely this new rift in the party that captured the public interest ahead of the congress – it is unclear how Sekerinska will position herself and her loyalists in the party in the future, as SDSM faces crucial municipal elections in October.

I thank my comrade Radmila who was my deputy in the most difficult years when we righted the course of the country. We will continue forward together. Our social-democratic family faces new successes, Zaev said.

Later today the party will announce the new members of its Central and Oversight Committees. Zaev announced that two thirds of these party bodies will be new members, which could lead to a major shift in power distribution within SDSM. Most importantly – the congress delegates will elect a new deputy leader in Sekerinska’s place. Zaev will need to give something to the Skopje wing of the party, which was kept in check by Sekerinska, if he wants to keep a united front.