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Change should happen in Albanian bloc as well thus restoring democracy, Sela tells MIA

These elections are important for the Albanians because with the change we want to restore democracy. For eighteen years, DUI ruled the Albanian society in the Republic of North Macedonia. After ten years of rule of VMRO-DPMNE, Zoran Zaev said we lack democracy. The government has not changed for ten years. For 18 years, the Albanians have not changed their government, both at local and central level.

Skopje, 7 July 2020 (MIA) – Ali Ahmeti and DUI party are optional Albanians. By nominating Albanian candidate for Prime Minister, DUI party wants to survive and keep its voters, so that the defeat in the elections will not be huge for them, leader of Alliance for Albanians (AA) party, Ziadin Sela said in an interview with MIA, asked to comment on the DUI’s election strategy for Albanian Prime Minister.

“I don’t think it’s the first time I’ve predicted and announced this during the local and presidential elections. At that time, we supported an Albanian presidential candidate, and Ali Ahmeti was joking about our proposal, although our goal was to keep Albanian voters in Albanian political parties. On the other hand, even then I have announced that you will see these optional Albanians. Ali Ahmeti and DUI are optional Albanians, when they were not bothered by Ljube Boshkovski or by anyone to go together and call on the citizens to vote in the local elections. In the presidential elections, they knew that they would suffer losses in the elections if they nominate their candidate, they campaigned and in the first round they supported the SDSM candidate. Even then, I said that at the parliamentary elections, they would immediately become great patriots, which they are not. They are not great Albanians either,” Sela told MIA.

According to him, DUI’s proposal came after release of IRI poll, according to which, DUI was behind the Alliance for Albanians.

“That forced Ali Ahmeti come up with this proposal, but it is not the first time. In 2014, when Ali Ahmeti came up with the idea of a consensual president, it was the only opportunity for Albanians to boycott, and when you are in power you are able to control not to come out, for (Gjorge) Ivanov to win another term. And two weeks later, parliamentary elections were held. DUI spoke for two weeks and Ali Ahmeti promised that when they no longer have a prime minister and president who is not consensual in the country, they will not give up the idea the Albanian to be Parliament Speaker. They embraced (Nikola) Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE again after the elections, and even competed with DPA, which will be the first to vote for Trajko Veljanovski as Parliament Speaker. And asked by a journalist why he lied to Albanians, Ali Ahmeti said ‘I’m a reasonable politician,’” Sela said.

Sela said that he is still a reasonable politician, but this is how he plays games with the voters and creates adrenaline rush among the Albanians in order to gain as many votes as possible. On the other side, unfortunately, both Macedonian parties are helping him in his intention, DUI would be a suitable partner for them, Sela told MIA.

AA leader, in an interview with MIA, said that there should be no dirty campaign, in which “bombs” (wiretapped conversations) are released almost every day, and that they should be the subject of judicial review, not political parties.

“There were many wiretapped conversations by the DUI in the public with all the descriptions of their leader, which in relation to Gordana Jankulovska, when was heard calling the Albanians “Indians”, the descriptions of Ali Ahmeti for the Albanians were even worse. Regardless, we are not dealing with that topic. We want to show that we are different, that change needs to come, not only physically, but also fundamentally, things need to change in this society,” Sela told MIA.

We also talked with the leader of the Alliance for Albanians about the key foundations in their programme that will attract voters, about how they will fight corruption, possible pre-election coalitions…

Read the full interview and watch the video below:

The election campaign is in full swing, your party is part of the “Now is the Time” coalition – Alliance for Albanians and Alternative. Can you tell us the five key things that will attract the more people to vote?

Our motto is “Now is the Time” for change. On the other hand, our programme is called “state for all”, because we consider that  so far the state has not had the same approach to all citizens living in the Republic of Macedonia and we want to solve some open issues, which they have been unresolved for over 30 years. The programme has six main pillars of which the first pillar is equality, the second one is balanced development because the Law on Balanced Regional Development has never been respected, either by the former regime or by the current government. Digitization and the environment and many other measures need to be implemented. One of our main goals for the first hundred days is to pass a law on equitable representation. Such a law is necessary, it is a constitutionally guaranteed right for all citizens and the law should end once and for all this manipulation that is seen today and had before the elections when with just one statement someone took the right to write that it feels like an Albanian, a Turk or a Roma. Our platform was created as a result of meetings with people and I have visited all villages and settlements in the country before the start of the campaign and before scheduling April 12 elections.

Our programme includes investments in the villages and settlements in the cities that are left without any investment. That means an average of EUR 100 million will be allocated each year from EUR 400 million spent on state investment. We promise EUR 500 million investment in resolving infrastructure problems in the villages. Law on Citizenship need to change and we should not allow citizens living in the country before the independence of the Republic of Macedonia to this day to have no citizenship, which means that at the time of this pandemic they do not have health insurance. Every submitted application older than five years, should automatically get citizenship and become a citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia.

The law of equitable representation, does not only cover the ethnic aspect, it will also solve other problems, as gender equality, for example. Gender equality is not resolved through one-third or half of the women represented in the Parliament. The minimum 50-50 balanced representation in the administration is important to achieve. Moreover, over 10 percent of the total population in the country are citizens with special needs and that category of citizens should be included with this law of equitable representation.

The ongoing election campaign is being conducted in specific conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic, however you did not quit direct meetings with the citizens. What measures do you undertake at rallies to be in line with health protocols. What if situation gets out of control?

We had the opportunity, which unfortunately we missed to use it as a small country, to be in a more relaxed situation now. Unfortunately, the caretaker government, with all the actors except the Alliance for Albanians, did not listen to us. Regrettably, we do not have more than EUR 400,000 in the country, and we have a maximum of 500,000 households. With only EUR 5 million of serological tests, we would know who is infected with COVID-19 in every house. If this serological test was positive, a PCR test would be performed. I don’t think this would have cost more than EUR 10 million. And we had chance not to close the businesses, but every household that will come out positive to put them in 14-day quarantine. They did not accept our proposals. They refused our suggestions that the students and the citizens should be given aid, but they expected the elections to come as fast as possible in order to somehow legally buy the voters. And I think that a large mistake was made when Zaev’s wish for holding quick elections was accepted. We suggested holding of elections by end of July and we would have time to continue with the measures and today we would be in a more relaxed situation. We try to respect the measures. I wear a mask all the time when I’m on the field, we provide face masks when we have rallies, hand sanitizers, etc. I urge the citizens not to be afraid on election day, there is no risk of being infected if they wear a face mask and keep a meter and a half distance. And yes, it’s very risky for me. I am not only the president of a political party, but I am also a father, I have children, I have a wife and I have to go home. It’s not easy when you return home and take care not to be close to children.

How do you assess the election campaign so far, we are witnessing dirty propaganda, “bombs”? What kind of campaign are you conducting as a coalition?

We are not dealing with that topic. I consider that the campaign and the elections should be a celebration of the citizens, because that is the logic of the elections when the power is in their hands. On the Election Day, the power is in the hands of the citizens who will vote, not the politicians or those who blackmail the citizens. There should be no dirty campaign, in which “bombs” (wiretapped conversations) are released almost every day, and that they should be the subject of judicial review, not political parties. There were many wiretapped conversations by the DUI in the public with all the descriptions of their leader, which in relation to Gordana Jankulovska, when was heard calling the Albanians “Indians”, the descriptions of Ali Ahmeti for the Albanians were even worse. Regardless, we are not dealing with that topic. We want to show that we are different, that change needs to come, not only physically, but also fundamentally, things need to change in this society.

DUI promoted Naser Ziberi as their candidate for the first Albanian Prime Minister. Do you think that DUI party wants to attract the Albanian voters and take over the electorate of other Albanian parties?

No, by nominating Albanian candidate for Prime Minister, DUI party wants to survive and keep its voters, so that the defeat in the elections will not be huge for them. I don’t think it’s the first time I’ve predicted and announced this during the local and presidential elections. At that time, we supported an Albanian presidential candidate, and Ali Ahmeti was joking about our proposal, although our goal was to keep Albanian voters in Albanian political parties. On the other hand, even then I have announced that you will see these optional Albanians. Ali Ahmeti and DUI are optional Albanians, when they were not bothered by Ljube Boshkovski or by anyone to go together and call on the citizens to vote in the local elections. In the presidential elections, they knew that they would suffer losses in the elections if they nominate their candidate, they campaigned and in the first round they supported the SDSM candidate. Even then, I said that at the parliamentary elections, they would immediately become great patriots, which they are not. They are not great Albanians either.

DUI’s proposal came after release of IRI poll, commissioned by Ipsos, according to which, DUI was behind the Alliance for Albanians. That forced Ali Ahmeti come up with this proposal, but it is not the first time. In 2014, when Ali Ahmeti came up with the idea of a consensual president, it was the only opportunity for Albanians to boycott, and when you are in power you are able to control not to come out, for (Gjorge) Ivanov to win another term. And two weeks later, parliamentary elections were held. DUI spoke for two weeks and Ali Ahmeti promised that when they no longer have a prime minister and president who is not consensual in the country, they will not give up the idea the Albanian to be Parliament Speaker. They embraced (Nikola) Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE again after the elections, and even competed with DPA, which will be the first to vote for Trajko Veljanovski as Parliament Speaker. And asked by a journalist why he lied to Albanians, Ali Ahmeti said ‘I’m a reasonable politician’. He is still a reasonable politician, but this is how he plays games with the voters and creates adrenaline rush among the Albanians in order to gain as many votes as possible. On the other side, unfortunately, both Macedonian parties are helping him in his intention, DUI would be a suitable partner for them. You heard the big idea that if DUI blackmails, they are committed to forming a government only with VMRO and SDSM, which is risky. The goal is just to give support to their friend, who loses from us on the field every day.

SDSM leader in the interview with MIA, said that you are in communication and did not rule out the possibility of post-election coalition with you. On what grounds would a possible coalition be based?

The citizens will decide. I have said many times that on Election Day, voters will vote for us and we will gain legitimacy, but they will vote for the programme and our idea. So, after our platform “state for all” becomes legitimate, as the voters voted for the programme and any coalition will be based on what the citizens will vote in our programme.

Albanian parties seem to have stepped up nationalist rhetoric ten days before the elections. During your election-related activities, you recently said that if SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE plan to form a government only with Macedonian representatives, the Albanians will form a government with Albanian political parties, how can we interpret such statements?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where I, as a party leader, have to play the role of an analyst. I would be glad if I heard a Macedonian analyst or intellectual say what I said. It’s not the full statement, I said more precisely, I asked Zaev and Mickoski – are they aware that through such coalitions, they are excluding the Albanians from the system. If someone is excluded from the system, Albanians in this case, have the right to boycott the system, and when the system is already boycotted whether they have the right to form a parallel system. Regrettably, we have a polarized society, we do not have an equal society, it is not one society for all if there are every day boundaries for Albanians. There cannot be one society for all, and on the other hand not to allow classes in Albanian to be held in Chaska or in Idrizovo or why the Loka bridge in Saraj has not yet been built, although it is an election promise from 2016 by SDSM. What kind of society is that? That’s my statement, and I think if I’m wrong in this logic, if someone excludes you from the system, I’m prepared to debate.

How many MP seats do you expect your coalition to win?

I said that power is in the hands of the people on Election Day. We will get as much as they will vote for us. I think that Alliance of Albanians and Alternative coalition will win this election, we are trying to make the difference even deeper with DUI, but the voters will decide about that.

Last week, together with your coalition partner, Alternative leader Afrim Gashi, you visited Prishtina and met with Albin Kurti at the headquarters of Self-Determination party. What was the purpose of the visit?

Political situation in Macedonia and recent developments in Kosovo, and the focus was more on the elections here in Macedonia and its support for the change needed in North Macedonia. No one should forget that for the Albanians these elections are important for something else. For eighteen years, DUI ruled the Albanian society in the Republic of North Macedonia. After ten years of rule of VMRO-DPMNE, Zoran Zaev said we lack democracy. The government has not changed for ten years. For 18 years, the Albanians have not changed their government, both at local and central level. So, these elections are important for the Albanians because with the change we want to restore democracy within us. The day when the politician is educated is the day when the citizen votes. The more we have a change in the ruling political party, the closer democracy will be to us, because every political party is responsible when it is in opposition. The files of all officials will be opened and the way they ruled will be seen, and it is a message for the current official who will be elected that one day he will be held accountable. I think that change is good to happen, it happened in the Macedonian bloc, it should happen in the Albanian bloc as well.

Mentioning the corruption, recent polls show that citizens still do not trust the judiciary. What will you, as a coalition, do if you are in power to change this perception?

We have included that in our programme. We are trying to win and we will win and be part of the government. The government of North Macedonia in the first hundred days should forward a request to the European Union, namely to Germany, France and the Netherlands to seek a team of judges and ombudsmen to come here to Macedonia and to open all closed cases in which there is a suspicion of political rather than court decisions. Even today, the courts’ decisions are based on the name and surname and the ethnicity and political affiliation. In regard to the killer of the four-year-old Almir is free, the case of murder was reclassified, a four-year-old child, an Albanian who was not aware of our ethnicity, and on the other hand Boban Ilikj who is free today because the case was reclassified as a high-risk car accident. Also, the case of Nikola Sazdovski, an ethnic Macedonian unfortunately killed in an attack of violent Albanians. I do not think that they should be free, but the judiciary should not qualify the case of a physical fight resulting in death, of a brutal murder. The re-classification of the incident was taken as a result of a protest by the fans, a crowd called for justice. I think a lot has to be done in the judiciary. The vetting process should be done as soon as possible. The statement of the former Prime Minister, the current SDSM leader, saying that we must not carry out vetting process because we will be left without judges, is scandalous. It is a recognition that we have a corrupt judiciary and corrupt courts. I think that the citizens are rightfully disgusted and dissatisfied.

You lead the list of candidates of the coalition in the sixth election district, where you will compete for votes with Kasami, Ahmeti … What are your expectations regarding the distribution of votes among Albanian voters? Many politicians are already declaring that it is good DUI to go into opposition?

DUI will go into opposition. I am competing with Ali Ahmeti, and when you say Bilal Kasami, it is as if you are saying that I am competing with Radmila Shekerinska. The Alliance and DUI are competing there, and if we take into account “We can” coalition I also compete with candidate Zoran Zaev.

Finally, what’s your message for the readers and viewers of MIA?

My message is citizens to take care and to respect the proposed measures, keep a distance, wear masks, wash hands, it’s all about keeping you, your loved ones safe. I call on all your viewers and those who follow you to come out in large number on Election Day. There is no risk if they wear masks and if they keep their distance, and everyone should vote and I think we should continue on the path to the European Union.

Neda Dimova Prokikj

Translated by Silvana Kochovska

Photo: Darko Popov

Video: Aslan Vishko

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