With the elections drawing closer, and the polls showing unassailable lead for VMRO-DPMNE over SDSM, a group of small parties who are known for always siding with the winner, announced that they are leaving the ruling coalition and joining the opposition.

VMRO-DPMNE officials broke the news this week. These include two parties led by commanders from the 2001 civil war – former Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski and general Stojance Angelov, who used to lend SDSM some credibility on national identity and national security issues, and were used by SDSM to attack VMRO-DPMNE from the right. But now, seeing the writing on the wall, both have announced that they are joining VMRO-DPMNE’s coalition. The small Macedonian Concept party, led by outspoken Petar Bogojeski is also joining VMRO-DPMNE, as are the OPCER Roma party and the Social-Democratic Union. It’s expected that the largest of these parties, the DS – Democratic Alliance led by another former Interior Minister Pavle Trajanov, an old police hand, will join VMRO in the coming days.

VMRO-DPMNE made a point to note that these parties will not be rewarded with seats in the Parliament. Trajanov currently holds one seat, but because of the previous betrayals and attacks – Trajanov was one of the members of Parliament who helped SDSM during the Colored Revolution – they will not be in a position to do so again. VMRO-DPMNE informed that only parties who remained loyal to the coalition, and who suffered political persecution under the DUI-SDSM regime – will get seats in Parliament. These are the Socialist Party and the Serbian party led by Ivan Stoiljkovic.

Under SDSM, these bellwether parties held seats in the public administration. One of them, Stojance Angelov, who tried to recruit veterans from the 2001 war in support of the Colored Revolution, was using his position as head of one of the two search and rescue agencies, to get media publicity by performing stunts while organizing rescue operations. Interim Prime Minister Talat Xhaferi informed that Angelov will be removed from position if his party leaves the coalition in the pre-election period. Angelov used this to score additional points, considering that during the 2001 war, Xhaferi was commander of the Albanian paramilitary UCK/NLA.

An UCK commander is going to dismiss a general of the security forces. Whether we like it or not, it’s a fact that this former Commander Forina from the UCK is now a legitimate President of the Macedonian Government, and he has the right to appoint or dismiss officials. The final decision will be made by a vote of Government members, which means that the SDSM ministers must also vote for my dismissal, Angelov said.

He cited the long delays in the adoption of a law that the Government approves payments to 2001 veterans, as reason why he is leaving Xhaferi’s Government.

VMRO-DPMNE endorsed a major request from these parties – that general elections are held in a single territorial unit, and not in the current six districts. Parties like DS, who would have a realistic chance to win a seat independently in a single district, would see their votes divided in the six districts and would end up short in all of them. So, for them, the only realistic path to win seats in the Parliament was to join either VMRO-DPMNE or SDSM in a coalition. VMRO is moderating this proposal with a call that the Parliament is reduced to 90 seats, which would likely mean that again only the largest of the “small parties” could win an independent seat.