Zoran Zaev’s attempt to bolsters his coalition with the inclusion of Afrim Gashi’s Alternative has caused split in this small ethnic Albanian party. The party is allied with the larger opposition Alliance of Albanians, and supported the vote of no confidence in the Zaev Government that was scheduled for last week, although one of its four members of Parliament – Skender Rexhepi – was lukewarm to the idea.
After the vote failed, due to the apparent pressure exerted on another Albanian member of Parliament – Kastriot Rexhepi from BESA – the Alternative announced it may do a 180 and actually join Zaev’s coalition. Zaev is having his first public outing since the vote in the Parliament more than a week ago, to meet with Gashi today. He is offering him at least one Government department and two Deputy Minister seats, which were held by BESA, but is likely to even more just to get over 61 votes again.
But the move is causing a division in the party, report Albanian language outlets. Skender Rexhepi is seen as supportive of the idea to join Zaev’s coalition, but the two deputy leaders of the party, Zeqiria Ibrahimi and Arben Labenishti, and especially its official in Cair Bekim Sali, are loudly against it.
We have no place in a Government that is supporter by people like Kastriot Rexhepi and Izet Mexhiti, Sali told his party colleagues, naming the now renegade BESA MP and the DUI official in Skopje’s Cair district. Both Rexhepi and Mexhiti, who have Islamist leanings, confronted with Sali in the difficult electoral fight in Cair on October 31st, a race that DUI won.
Other opposition parties are not closing the door on Gashi entirely. VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski said that he is in daily contact with Gashi and noted that his representatives in the Skopje City Council voted for the VMRO-DPMNE candidate for Chairman, Trajko Slaveski. “We have a good working relationship”, Mickoski added.
Arben Taravari, deputy leader of the Alliance of Albanians, also recently heaped praise on Gashi despite his scheduled meeting with Zoran Zaev and plans to possibly enter the coalition. “The Alternative party will decide for itself, but I think that Zaev’s ship is slowly sinking. Afrim Gashi is one of the most humane people I have met in my life. Maybe we made some mistakes in our approach to them in our coalition, maybe they had some mistakes, and we didn’t have great results in the races even though we had excellent candidates like Bekim Sali in Cair. Every party will decide for itself”, Taravari said.
Zaev made a rare statement during his week long absence from the public, and will appear today before cameras for a first time since Thurdsay evening, for his meeting with Gashi. In a statement reported by Fokus, he dismissed rumors that he will come to the meeting with Gashi accompanied by the future SDSM party leader and Prime Minister, as he himself announced his intention to resign after stabilizing the coalition. In a brief comment attributed to Zaev, Fokus reports that SDSM first needs to elects its new leader, through a direct vote of all party members, and only afterwards will that leader be nominated as a candidate for Prime Minister.