By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia’s main opposition Social Democrats have chosen Radmila Shekerinska as the party’s candidate for prime minister, as the country prepares for June 5 elections.
Party leader Branko Crvenkovski made the announcement late on Wednesday at a celebration of the party’s 20th anniversary.
“Shekerinska is a synonym for Macedonia’s EU integration, a person that enjoys the respect of both Brussels and Washington,” Crvenkovski said, reiterating that he would not be part of a government led by the Social Democrats, if the party wins the snap polls.
Shekerinska is a party veteran and during her term in office as deputy prime minister in charge of European affairs, Macedonia gained the status of EU candidate country in 2005.
Shekerinska said she would work to “turn Macedonia into a prosperous country” if her party wins the upcoming polls.
Shekerinska’s name had been floated around in recent weeks as one of two top opposition candidates after Crvenkovski indicated that he would not run for the prime minister’s seat. The other possible candidate was Zoran Zaev, a high-ranking Social Democrat who is currently the mayor of Strumica.
Crvenkovski, meanwhile, says he will remain at the helm of the opposition and will lead the party through the polls.
The Social Democrats hope to defeat the ruling VMRO DPMNE of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which it accuses of curbing democratic freedom, ruining the economy and deliberately keeping the country at an arms length from NATO and the EU.
Macedonia’s ruling party has not yet chosen its candidate, but analysts expect current Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to stand again.
Shekerinska briefly led the Social Democrats during the 2008 early elections, when the party suffered a devastating loss to the VMRO DPMNE.