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The opposition must not oppose to early parliamentary elections

We lost the elections in 2006 because we did not appreciate enough the chances citizens gave us – to work on their behalf for the country’s prosperity. We made mistakes, we did not try hard enough and the people punished us.

I entered the Assembly to contribute to changes, to return this party in the Government – the former SDSM Secretary General, Andrej Petrov comments. In his opinion, no party can allow itself to oppose early parliamentary elections. The explanation is simple – you win and lose the government at elections, there is no other way to change the government. He is convinced that Stevche Jakimovski’s party GROM and Vlado Buchkovski’s Alliance for Positive Macedonia will win significant share of the votes, but still not enough to make them relevant factors on the political stage in Macedonia. However, the damage that can cause to the SDSM can be major, Petrov says. The 2-3 MPs each of these two parties would win, would mean a loss of 6-7 MPs to SDSM.

After his term of office, Petrov remains in politics, but without any political function. He says he does not wish for another term of office, instead he will dedicate himself to his profession – medicine.

How many names are being rumored in SDSM for the President candidacy? Who are they, what is their profile? When will SDSM announce its presidential candidate?

Petrov: I believe there will be more candidates, because there is an ongoing procedure within the local party bodies throughout the country. Party as big as SDSM is obliged, due to its investment in this country so far, to offer the best possible solution for the benefit of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. When choosing a candidate, the party would refer to its democratic tradition per se and consult its vast membership.  Naturally, the final decision will be made by the highest party body, the Congress during a convention.

I am convinced that SDSM has excellent human resources potential, as well as persons suitable for this challenge. You see, it is a great honor to be SDSM candidate for any function, but the greatest honor, of course, is to be a candidate for President of the Republic of Macedonia. I should not even mention there is no greater honor for any citizen to be presidential candidate for their own country and work for the benefit of their people.

Have you been negotiating with some of the Albanian parties for consensual candidate?

Petrov: I would not be able to answer this question because I am currently not part of the SDSM highest leadership. I would neither speculate, nor prejudice.  I do not know. If you are asking for my opinion as a former party Secretary General, I think a person acceptable to all citizens should be nominated. Supported by the electorate, not the elite. It is the citizens who decide, and not only by ethnicity. Personally, I am opposed to bargaining, they always fail, no exceptions. Everyone would fight for their own benefit only.

Is there a possibility for elections failure due to census?

Petrov: The census of 40% voters in the second round is pretty high. It is probably extremely difficult to see a re-run of the episode when the charismatic Gligorov or Crvenkovski, reached even 50% in the second round, or the uncertainty of the battle between the late President Boris Trajkovski and Tito Petkovski. Even the citizens are not as interested to vote at the Presidential elections as they are for the parliamentary, because the first ones do not make any major change in their everyday life. Also, the role of the last President elected cannot be compared to the big influence his predecessors had in the political course of the country. However, its is individuals who can change everything. The chair does not create the authority, but the person who sits in it.



Do you think the Agreement on amendments of the Election Code is enough to fulfill the requirements for early parliamentary elections? Does SDSM want early elections?

Petrov: The Election Code Agreement means that both government and opposition accept the game rules. We did not manage to reach an agreement in 2011. We had serious differences with Nikola Gruevski. I can witness that as direct participant to the negotiations in the Club of MPs. The differences were so big, that we did not agree to such approach and the end result was adopting Election Code without consensus for the first time in the history of plural Macedonia.

Now, we have a different situation, where election rules are mutually accepted. This, of course, is the pre-condition to fair and democratic early parliamentary elections.

Regarding to the second part of the question, I would not be able to talk on the behalf of SDSM, it is a question for the party President and Vice President, because they have congress legitimacy. My position is that no opposition can allow itself to be against early parliamentary elections. Government is won and lost at elections. There is no other way to change the government. If winning the government to change the way the incumbent government runs the country, is not your constant goal, than should not be in the place you are in right now.

Are you having negotiations with some other party for a coalition?

Petrov: SDSM is in a formal coalition with the “Alliance for the future”. In my knowledge, Stojanche Angelov had willfully left this coalition, while Dragisha Miletikj and Ivon Velichkovski had breached the Party Coalition Agreement. Crvenkovski and have put a lot of effort to form the “Alliance for the future” and to endure under difficult circumstances. I would not be able to elaborate on the current condition and the policy of the incumbent party leadership, because the Party Central Board, that usually decides on major issues by a debate, has not discussed it yet.

What results do you expect, how many MPs would SDSM win if there are early parliamentary elections in April?

Petrov: I do hope the polls that report “close difference” between the governing party and the opposition are relevant and along with the dissatisfaction of the 8-year-long rule of the incumbent government there can be an overturn. I do not wish to litigate with the numbers. It is irrelevant whether SDSM will win 42 MPs in a coalition like in our mandates so far, 27 like in the previous mandate. The key question is the number of MPs won guarantees forming the Government. That is the only thing that will bring changes for the citizens and satisfaction to the SDSM.

To what extent do fractions influence the party? Do you consider GROM and Alliance for Positive Macedonia to be serious threat for SDSM? Can they harm SDSM as NSDP did by winning 7 MPs on the elections in 2006?

Petrov: There are no fractions in SDSM. At least I am not aware of such. There has not been any official statement of a former party leadership member (President, Vice Presidents, Secretary General) where they criticize the current party leadership. This is a entirely different than the period when former SDSM members (the first five functionaries) publicly criticized the leaders’ policy. And we handled it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, but that opiniion is now expressed within the party. It is understandable that in a major party as SDSM there are different points of view on how to reach the end goal. Eventually, the elections result are reflection of the strategy success. Everything else is just adornments. Zaev has my absolute support to win the parliamentary elections.

In my opinion,  GROM and the Alliance should not be underestimated at all, because 90% of their electorate is opposition members. The other question is: are they opposition parties? According to their statements, they seem to be closer to the incumbent party, although they are trying to play bigger in order to multiply their electorate and keep the opposition voters support. I think these two parties will win many votes, but not even remotely close to turn them into a significant factor on the political stage, but they can inflict major damage to SDSM.



VMRO-DPMNE has been the ruling part since 2006, or almost eight years. Which are the key mistakes of SDSM because of which it lost the 2006 elections and all elections after 2009?

Petrov: There are various reasons. We lost the 2006 elections because we did not appreciate the chance we were given by the citizens enough – to work in their name for better prosperity of the country. We made mistakes. We were not engaged enough and the people punished us. I was not part of the Goverenment in the period, I was the mayor of Karposh, but generally, as a member of SDSM, I think that we showed inappropriate nonchalance and  irresponsibility. But, that is far behind, because almost eight years have passed and that is not the main reason for the long persistence of the current government. I think that the key is the character of the government, which, according to me, covered the entire society, suppressing the critical thought instead of upgrading it. Policy of a firm hand and tenacity! Of intolerance. However, truthfully, I must greet their consistence, even in a wrong policy. Of course, I do not think that all their policies are wrong, because it would be immature to believe that citizens have supported such government for so many times.For instance, I think that they made great progress in the tax system, which is good.

What is your vision of the social democracy? 

Petrov: In the world, the carrier of the progress, and historically if you want, are the social democratic ideas. The social democracy in Macedonia has had its notable role since the time of the historic VMRO and the National Liberation War . When we talk about vision for the future, we must restore the support of a couple of larger categories of citizens, especially the pensioners, the workers and the young. We should offer them an alternative in Macedonia, and prevent them from moving abroad. To stand up for justice.

Eight months have passed since Zoran Zaev’s selection as the leader of SDSM, and the management of the party has changed as well. Does Crvenkovski still have any influence on bringing the decisions of the party? Which are the key changes that happened in regard to SDSM’s policy and position as the biggest opposition party?

Petrov: It is evident that our former president Crvenkovski does not want to be involved in bringing the decisions. There is no such statement in the public. As far as I know, out of principled reasons, in order to leave space for the new management to operate with full capacity. I would not comment on the management even though ten months are a good period to leave impressions. They gained the trust of the Congress to help SDSM win. I think that it is obvious that they replaced the firm position of the party with pragmatism, believing that it is the formula for success. Time will tell.

There is a serious threat that we could lose the recommendation to set a date for accession negotiation if the dialogue in Parliament does not resume i.e. if not continue applying the agreement on December 24 events.  Do you believe that SDSM holds the European integration of the country in custody?

Petrov: I think that SDSM cannot be the reason for loosing the recommendation. On the contrary, if we go back, SDSM saved the country from loosing the recommendation for several times. If you ask me when, concretely, when adopting the package of laws at Parliament four years ago, and I talk about the Laws on Parliament and the police and several others which we supported despite our party positions. Furthermore, when forming the Commission of inquiry into the events in Parliament.  The third example is the March agreement with European Commissioner Stefan Fule’s mediation. I was a direct participant in all three, and so it was. SDSM loves Macedonia above everything. I do not deny that right to VMRO-DPMNE at all.

What would you do in regard to the talks with Greece if you were to win the elections?

Petrov: We have that in our 2011 election programme. We introduced the position that whichever the solution, we will support the citizens to express their views on it on a referendum. The programme also includes whichever solution that tackles the identity and the language is unacceptable to us. We publicly declared that we will accept any solution acceptable for Gruevski. It is the official policy of the party in the last five years and thus far I have not heard that it has been officially reviewed. Nor, I find it wrong. I think it is correct.

Is there any divided groups in SDSM? Dnevnik daily informs that you, Natasha Savova and Jani Makraduli are not on Zaev’s list for a new MP mandate. Do you expect to be on the MP list if there are early elections? Are you willing for another MP mandate?

Petrov: It is totally trivial and irrelevant who will be SDSM’s MP. If only SDSM won, without me being a MP. I am prepared to sit on an election box in the elections if that helps SDSM.

However, the claim in the text has been refuted, whoever was the “briefer”, because on September 1, 2013, precisely in an interview with Dnevnik, I stated that I have no intentions of seeking another MP mandate from the citizens. I knew that there will be early parliamentary elections since then. And that is what I think today.

I feel professionally competent and to me it is an honor and a privilege to manage the Dermatology Department in the best private hospital in Macedonia, “Acibadem Sistina”, in the forthcoming period. I will totally dedicate to be successful in it. It is a question of expertise and solidarity, and I believe to have them both.

Of course, I have no intention of retiring from politics!


By: Biljana Zafirova

Photograph: Aleksandar Ivanovski