The SDSM – DUI majority in the Macedonian Parliament today elected Talat Xhaferi from DUI as interim Prime Minister, who will lead a caretaker Government in the next 100 days. Xhaferi, former terrorist commander in the NLA/UCK group during the 2001 war, is the first ethnic Albanian appointed Prime Minister of Macedonia. Kovacevski is scheduled to meet with Xhaferi tomorrow morning in the Government building, where he will hand over his office.

DUI leader Ali Ahmeti made this move his condition when Zoran Zaev came to him in 2020 to ask for support to form a Government after the inconclusive general election. Ahmeti and DUI invested heavily in promoting this move as a major success for the Albanian national cause in Macedonia, and the pinnacle of Ahmeti’s takeover of power under the nominally SDSM led Government. DUI holds a seat of a powerful First Deputy Prime Minister, who was appointed with de-facto veto power over Zaev and then Kovacevski as Prime Minister. Even though the Prime Minister is now an Albanian, DUI’s Artan Grubi will continue to hold this position in the next 100 days. DUI also holds departments such as Foreign Affairs, where it leads the negotiations with Bulgaria over the Macedonian national identity, and the Finance Ministry which it uses to full extent to hire ethnic Albanian party loyalits to the public administration. Directly or through satellite parties, DUI also holds the important ministries for education, public administration, healthcare, economy and a number of others. Through Grubi, DUI also led the negotiations with the American Bechtel company for a huge highway deal which is reportedly rife with corruption benefiting party officials.

SDSM is likely to do much worse in the coming elections than it did in 2020, making it even more dependent on DUI. Kovacevski’s party is openly begging for an unprecedented pre-election coalition with DUI, hoping it would reduce their margin of defeat against VMRO-DPMNE. Antonio Milososki was selected by VMRO-DPMNE to make the key response to the interim Government: “DUI’s faithful partners SDSM turned the Macedonian people into renters in teir own country. We are witnessing a humiliating DUIsation of the country. Dimitar Kovacevski and Bojan Maricic are selling out house cheaply in order to keep their positions and turned SDSM into an appendage of DUI”, Milososki said.

This prompted a response from Ahmeti, who made a very rare visit to the Parliament to gloat in his victory. Speaking in Albanian, he said that now neither Macedonians nor Albanians are renters in the country.

Ahmeti shared a video with Xhaferi and a group of party officials, some of them smoking and visibly drunk in the Parliament building, wearing ties with the title “Albanian Prime Minister”.

“We promised and we delivered”, was another celebratory message, sent out by Artan Grubi, who posted a picture of a joint handshare with Ahmeti and Xhaferi.

Albanian officials in the region also celebrated the news that raised the number of Albanian Prime Ministers in the region to three (Montenegro had an Albanian Prime Minister between 2022 and 2023. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was instrumental in bringing SDSM to power in 2017, said that while Ahmeti could be criticized within Macedonia, he must be praised for elevating the rights of the Albanians and for delivering a “historic lesson for the coming generations”.

VMRO-DPMNE did not vote for the new Government. The vote was 65 in favor, and three against. The party said that its participation in the Government is a necessary evil, hoping it will help reduce the abuse of power by SDSM and DUI in the run up to the elections.

Fears are especially high that DUI will use its control over the police in Albanian majority areas for ballot stuffing that would benefit them and harm the Albanian opposition parties. VMRO representatives also did not join the DUI and SDSM ones for a joint photo, and did not go to President Pendarovski’s office for a meeting.

During the vote, SDSM lost one member of Parliament. Miroslav Jovanovic, who is an ethnic Serb and is elected as part of the SDSM led coalition, left the building before the vote. SDSM is facing serious opposition in large parts of their own membership to the continued concessions they are making to DUI, and continues to lose public support in the polls, raising fears that its pre-election coaltion with DUI would cost them more than it would be worth, unsure how people will respond to ethnically mixed election rolls that will include former terrorists or candidates known for their corruption. Kovacevski is hoping that international support, recently expressed by a high level US diplomat, and by Alexander Soros, will help him if not win the elections, at least prevent any other Albanian party from forming a coalition with VMRO-DPMNE which could lead to a deadlock in Parliament or another weak DUI – SDSM coalition.