Several smaller coalition partners of Zoran Zaev’s SDSM party are reviving their demand to changes to the electoral model, and some are now threatening Zaev that they may withhold their votes in Parliament where he holds the narrowest possible majority.
The parties demand that the current six electoral districts are abolished in favor of only one district. It would favor smaller parties who lose votes when competing independently in several districts, but could translate them into seats in Parliament if the votes were put together on only one list. At the moment, the best option for smaller parties who are not concentrated in one district, but draw votes from across Macedonia, is to ally themselves to SDSM or VMRO-DPMNE, has the result of them not being able to test their actual voting base independently.
We are working to secure unity on this issue and we stand strongly on this demand. We want to ensure that the initiative is adopted with consensus. If a dozen members of Parliament split away from the coalition and stop voting for the proposals in the Parliament it can’t operate. Let them work without us. SDSM can’t make decisions even with DUI by its side, and VMRO-DPMNE won’t be able to work either. That is why we want a mutual agreement on our request, said Pavle Trajanov, who is the lone member of Parliament for his DS party. The former police official leveraged his small vote base and knowledge in security issues into positions within the VMRO led coalition, only to change sides and support Zaev in 2015.
Another party which followed a similar path, the environmentalists from DOM, also raised the issue with Zaev. They hold two seats in Parliament, and Zaev only has 62 votes in the 120 seat Parliament. Defections from DOM and DS alone could block the ruling majority from even convening sessions of Parliament. Both VMRO and SDSM have smaller coalition partners, but at the moment SDSM is more dependent on them than the main opposition party.
The proposal is opposed by the larger parties, although Zaev was prepared to support it a year ago. It’s estimated that VMRO and SDSM would lose several seats in this new distribution. It is absolutely opposed by the ethnic Albanian parties, who depend on the 20 seats allocated in the 6th district – which has by far the worst turnout in the country – the result of the high emigration rate. As a result, a seat in the 6th, majority Albanian district, is now worth much less votes than a seat in another district. Levelling the playing field is also expected to cost the Albanian parties seats in the Parliament.