The referendum campaign will not cost more than 400,000 euros

The campaign for the referendum will cost no more than 400,000 euros, and the results will guarantee that a necessary two-thirds majority will be provided later in parliament to ratify the agreement with Greece, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has estimated. He reiterated that campaign budget money will not be given to lawmakers, but will be paid for advertising. He gives an opportunity for a meeting with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski because there is always a need for a meeting between the president of the government and the head of the main opposition party.

“SDSM has so far no projection of how much money it will spend on the campaign for the referendum, but all the money that will be spent from the budget for that purpose will be solely and exclusively for lease of media space. Here I would like to clear up something: it’s not money that will be distributed among MPs. How those funds will be distributed is according to who is “for”, and who “against” the referendum, according to the explanation of the Members of Parliament themselves,” said Zoran Zaev yesterday in Kriva Palanka, where he attended the religious service honoring the Assumption of the Mother of God in the monastery St. Joakim Osogovski.

He announced that his party will try to form a coalition with several political parties, and hence the budget of the coalition will also depend on it.

“But I do not believe that it will take more than 300-400 thousand euros, because the referendum itself is not like parliamentary elections and does not require a lot of campaign costs. Our intention is for the referendum to be held in a more pleasant and attractive atmosphere for the citizens, different from any other electoral processes. And that’s why I believe that citizens in such a pleasant atmosphere will come out and cast their votes in favor of the agreement”, Zaev said.

“We must seize this historic opportunity, because reaching an agreement after 27 years with Greece on such a sensitive matter was not easy. However this agreement has opened the EU doors for our economic prosperity, preservation of the territorial integrity of our tiny country,’ Zaev said, expressing belief that the referendum will be successful. And that’s why I believe that citizens will provide the necessary two-thirds of votes for the continuation of formal and legal procedures in parliament through the ‘for’ vote,” the prime minister explained.

While PM Zaev was in Kriva Palanka, Mickoski was in Berovo. From there, he announced that VMRO-DPMNE is preparing the programme and will soon be presented to the citizens. He said the party that he leads would not make populist promises, but would offer serious solutions to existential and real problems. Today, his party members should inform the President of the Parliament, Talat Xhaferi, that they giving up the money they were supposed to receive for the referendum campaign. In this way, they are expected to express support to the leader who made such a decision without consulting them at all. Mickoski said it would be nice if the campaign money would be spent on smart investments, such as in schools, the economy, agriculture etc.
“VMRO-DPMNE with its own strengths and means, with the support of the people, which is the pillar and the true source of power and legitimacy in this country, will participate in the campaign and will be against this agreement, and at the moment when we define the final position in relation to the very act of voting, taking part in the referendum, it will be announced to the citizens,” Mickoski stated, again pointing out that the party has not yet adopted a position for participation in the referendum vote. He emphasized that it is not clear how Zaev will manage to provide a two-thirds majority in parliament, when at the moment, together with the Albanian opposition, only 72 delegates are at his disposal.

The math is simple: if the referendum is successful – VMRO-DPMNE will have to listen to the voice of citizens and vote on constitutional changes, and if not – then the ruling opposition will have to reach for support from the opposition. For the time being, it is most uncertain how the Socialists will be set, given that two of the three MPs have issues with the SPO: Ljupco Dimovski directly, and Slobodanka Avirovic through her son. Yesterday we contacted the parliamentary group of the SPM, but its members did not want to reveal what their attitude towards the campaign would be. They, in fact, do not have their own separate parliamentary group, but they are part of the coalition “For Macedonia Together” led by VMRO-DPMNE, so they have no right to individually ask for money to run a campaign. That, however, did not prevent Antonio Milososki from doing so, demanding that he be given funds to run a so-called “Boycott” campaign.

Ivan Stoilkovic of the Democratic Party of Serbs in Macedonia, which is also part of the VMRO-DPMNE coalition, declared that he and his fellow party members would not participate in the activities related to the “referendum games”, and that they will run a campaign with their own funds.

“I am amazed by the fact that for this purpose the government has allocated funds to the Parliament that not only dragged the MPs in the process that was so non-transparently led, but also transferred the responsibility into the hands of those who did not participate in any of the segments of the creation of the signed agreement with Greece. I suggest that the Parliament returns the money to the government and leave it to the process that it started itself and finish it, and thus bear the responsibility for everything that it did (not) do,” Stoilkovic pointed out.
The only MP of GROM (party that declared that it will boycott the referendum), Pance Minov believes that the MPs should launch a campaign that will encourage citizens to freely assess whether they will come out and whether they will vote in the referendum. All other political groups in parliament have already sent a letter to Xhaferi, informing them that their MPs will take an active part in the public campaign for the referendum at the state level, to be held on September 30th and  that they will cast their votes ‘for’ in the referendum.

Goran Adamovski