By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
An official close to Social Democrat leadership told Balkan Insight that the party was conducting internal surveys to determine who should stand against Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, leader of the governing VMRO DPMNE, in the June 5 general election.
The official said the party might reveal the name of the candidate for the Prime Minister’s post at the forthcoming party congress set for late April or early May.
On the other hand, “We may keep the name secret till the start of the election campaign”, he added.
Speculation has grown over the name of the candidate after party leader Branko Crvenkovski suggested it might not necessarily be him. Crvenkovski, who returned to the party’s helm in 2009 in order to strengthen its profile after a series of defeats, confirmed only that he would lead the party through the election campaign.
Unofficially, the party is believed to considering between three high-ranking members, the party’s vice-president, Zoran Zaev, MP Radmila Shekerinska and the party’s secretary-general, Andrej Petrov.
“Yes, I’m one of the candidates for Prime Minister,” Zaev confirmed to the media this week. “Shekerinska and several other names are also being considered”.
Zaev, mayor of the southeastern town of Strumica, led the party for several months before Crvenkovski returned to the post in 2009. The party was waiting for Crvenkovski’s term as head of state to end.
Zaev came into the public spotlight in 2008, when police apprehended him on suspicion of having misused his mayoral office. Last week, the courts confirmed his innocence of the charges.
Shekerinska has a much longer career in the party. She led the government’s Directorate for European Affairs during the Social Democrat-led government from 2002 to 2006. During her term Macedonia obtained EU candidate status.
But under her leadership, the Social Democrats suffered their worst ever electoral defeat at the hands of VMRO DPMNE in the 2008 elections. She resigned from the post several months later.
Andrej Petrov is seen as one of the party’s most successful mayors. Before being elected as an MP and as party secretary he ran the municipality of Karposh in Skopje.