Arben Taravari, leader of the Alliance of Albanians party, today announced that he has decided to side with the opposition Albanian parties, against the coalition of DUI and SDSM.

This is the result of weeks of negotiations and pressure exerted on Taravari, whose party joined the SDSM-DUI coalition a year ago, but has also tried to maintain a semi-independent course. His then decision to side with the Government, even after he received generous support from VMRO-DPMNE to become Mayor of Gostivar, was explained with a real-estate deal in the center of Skopje.

But after populist Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti openly endorsed the coalition of opposition parties, made up of BESA, Alternative and the Movement for Change, Taravari sensed that he is losing the pro-opposition Albanian vote and that his party will lose much of the support it enjoyed in 2020, when it was the largest voice critical of DUI.

After considering the kind suggestions from all friends, party members and supporters, I made my decision and I will listen to the voice of the people, which now speaks louder than ever. The Citizen demands Change! The people want a political system purged of the epidemic of corruption, which is now the biggest obstacle for the welfare and growth of the Albanians in Macedonia. As President of the Alliance of Albanians, I publicly call on the assembly of the party to support me on this path and that we together bring about the major and long awaited change, Taravari said in a social media post.

This indicates that AA, BESA, Movement for Change and Alternative will prepare a joint electoral list and, also very importantly, will field a joint presidential candidate – supported in both elections by Albin Kurti’s VV movement in Kosovo, which could become a formal part of the coalition. Nominating an Albanian presidential candidate in particular could derail the proposed SDSM – DUI coalition, as DUI is afraid of the possibility to see an Albanian candidate win over a 100,000 votes in the first round of the presidential elections, while they try to support an ethnic Macedonian candidate nominated by SDSM. DUI and SDSM openly sought support from US diplomats to prevent this possibility, afraid that a good result for the opposition Albanian parties in the first round of the presidential elections could sway many of the DUI voters and would reflect in the general elections on May 8th.

DUI and SDSM are now trying to divide the Alliance of Albanians, using officials close to its former leader Ziadin Sela. Sela issued a statement insisting that Taravari is not empowered to reach a decision like this on his own, and accused Taravari of violating the ideological principles of the party. Justice Minister Krenar Loga, who is close ot Sela, also rebuked the party leader and informed the public that the Alliance of Albanians hasn’t made any formal decisions to join the other opposition Albanian parties. Loga points to a previous decision of the party to run in the elections independently, and called on Taravari to respect this decision.

With VMRO-DPMNE leading the polls by a wide margin, and clashing with DUI daily over their numerous corruption scandals, it is clear that VMRO would try to form a government with the opposition Albanian parties, even if their electoral result is worse than that of DUI. The old rule, known as the May agreement, that the winner of the Macedonian camp should form a coalition with the winner of the Albanian camp, is no longer in force after DUI violated it in 2017, when it chose a coalition with SDSM, and not with the winner of the elections VMRO-DPMNE.