A leak yesterday announced that SDSM plans to “retire” a number of key mayors and nominate new candidates.

But one of the crucial large cities that the party managed to hold even during the height of the VMRO-DPMNE decade in office, Kumanovo, was not mentioned in the leak. Mayor Maksim Dimitrievski has been an outspoken critic of Zoran Zaev, and especially Zaev’s Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, who is Dimitrievski’s rival in the Kumanovo SDSM branch.

Dimitrievski spoke out against Zaev’s concessions toward Bulgaria and accused the Government of failing to provide adequate support to Kumanovo during the coronavirus crisis, so Zaev would be happy to remove him from his podium. A local SDSM official, Oliver Ilievski, is campaigning against Dimitrievski and seeks the nomination, while news sites, apparently coordinated by Ilievski and Interior Minister Spasovski, are presenting Dimitrievski as “pro-Serbian and pro-Russian”, and hostile to Kumanovo’s Albanian community.

With the elections due in less than two months, the split in SDSM’s branch in Kumanovo, that is replicating in a number of other cities, could leave an opening for the opposition to challenge even this important base for the ruling party. VMRO-DPMNE is nominating popular actor Toni Mihajlovski as their candidate.