Is the census the beginning of the end for Ahmeti?

DUI leader Ali Ahmeti faces one of the major challenges in his political career after the SPO opened the “Census” case against him, in an atmosphere of tense relations between the old-new coalition partners at “Ilindenska”. It is particularly symptomatic that Ahmeti’s accomplice in the cessation of the 2011 census was pointed out by his former and long-term partner in the government, Nikola Gruevski, who left a couple of months ago from the helm of VMRO-DPMNE.

The difference between Ahmeti and Gruevski is that the leader of DUI managed to remain in power after the elections in 2016, although, quantitatively, his electoral decline was greater than that of VMRO-DPMNE, so part of the Albanian votes spilled over at SDSM. However, the fact that Ahmeti became the first high-ranking official of the DUI for which the SPO opened an object is only one of the developments that are stirring the pot regarding the ruling party from the Albanian bloc. The turbulences surrounding the adoption of the Law on Languages, the resignation of Justice Minister Bilen Saljii, the storm that rose for the re-qualification of the work on the death of the small Almir, as well as certain staffing solutions that the Integratives practically impel them to the Social Democrats and caused dissatisfaction in the public … are some of the topics that open the question of whether Ahmeti, who is the longest-running party leader in the history of Macedonian pluralism, is the next one that will be forced to retire from the helm.

In the “political poolroom”, the names of possible successors of Ahmeti on the party throne are already being reversed – mainly persons who were distanced from the party in the last period. On the other hand, the option of opening the case with the failed census is mentioned as only a message or a “warning” to the leader of DUI, given the speculation in Ahmeti’s political circles for secret communication and bargaining with VMRO-DPMNE officials on certain issues, during the period when the public was raising the noise about the adoption of the Law on Languages ​​and the rejection of 36 thousand amendments to the opposition?

DUI sources point out several indicative moments regarding the timing in which an investigation was launched against Ahmeti, such as that the DUI was largely spared from the “bombs” that were published by SDSM while in opposition, to the fact that the SPO is not currently able to raise charges, while the possible extension of the indictment deadline or the change of the status of this prosecution depends on the parliamentary majority, which includes DUI.

According to journalist and analyst Isen Saliu, the SPO case comes at a difficult time for DUI, that is, during a period when this party is doing everything for the public to forget its ten-year coalition with VMRO-DPMNE.

– I think that the case regarding the 2011 census shows that, even if DUI insists on sparing responsibility, however, the doubts about the crime committed in the period for which the SPO is competent can not be cleared only by opening cases for officials of VMRO-DPMNE, but their long-standing loyal partners should also be included. The ‘Census’ case strikes Ahmeti where he is most vulnerable, Saliu says.

He emphasizes that Ahmeti is building an image of an honest politician since his emergence on the political scene in 2001. However, as he adds, the suspicions of the SPO, very vividly presented by the prosecutor Fatime Fetai, who said that she had the opportunity to hear the tapped conversations, indicate that “the honorable Ahmeti, as it is presented in the public, was not so honest at cutting plans along with Gruevski. Especially for a sensitive request by the Albanians, such as the census.”

“The past shows that DUI can, to some extent, recover from any affair of any official, thanks to Ahmeti’s charisma. However, the question is whether it will be possible to recover after this scandal of the party leader, given it’s confirmed, and bearing in mind that Ahmeti is the symbol of the party. I think a lot of things depend on how the process will be unraveling, or whether there will be a charge from the SPO towards him, “Saliu said.

He points out that one of the variants is the opening of the “Census” case to be an announcement for opening a case of the SPO about a SDSM official, in order to dismiss the public’s suspicion that this prosecution acts biased.

DUI sources say that last week’s party presidency session, which lasted for six hours, the failed census investigation was never brought up. The session reportedly was delayed because all DUI ministers gave a report to Ahmeti for the work done in the past months. The unofficial information, however, was that there was expressed dissatisfaction with the work of several ministers and officials, for which there were remarks by diplomats in the country. Therefore, it is not excluded that the upcoming reshuffle of the executive would cover a few more DUI cadres, besides Saljii who resigned.

The reshuffling of the government cabinet, according to estimates, is another sign of the weakened positions of DUI, which failed in its intention to remain the sole party of the Albanian block in the ruling coalition, after the Alliance was pushed out.

As a sign that something is not quite right in the relations with SDSM, it is also indicated that the participation of high-ranking DUI officials in the protests in front of the government (in which they themselves participate) about the case of young Almir, and despite the fact that they protested for the decision made by the judiciary, not by the executive branch.

The incursions between the two parties then continued in parliament, where the DUI parliamentary group announced that it would not support the changes to the laws proposed by SDSM in reducing the travel costs for lawmakers. Although it could have intervened in the proposals of SDSM so far, DUI’s explanation is that its intention is to completely abolish travel costs – not only for lawmakers, but also for officials in the executive branch.

Alexandra M. Mitevska