The State Electoral Commission informed on Tuesday that 27 candidates for mayors and 47 lists of candidates for municipal Councils collected the signatures they need to apply independently from political parties at the municipal elections scheduled for October 15th.
The SEC did not disclose the names of the candidates and the lists, as the signatures are still being verified by the local SEC chapters, but media reported that one of them is Andrej Zernovski, the Mayor of Skopje’s downtown Centar municipality, who was elected in 2013 on the SDS ticket after a prolonged electoral battle, but has apparently fallen out of favor since then.
According to media reports, Zernovski is still hoping to be nominated by the SDS as Mayor, but just in case he collected the necessary signatures for an independent run. He was heavily used and assisted in the SDS wiretapping coup, during which he was called out to ‘present’ wiretaps which the SDS illegally acquired, and was also a prominent figure in one of the cases initiated by the SPO, which charged former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski with organizing a protest against Zernovski. His independent run could complicate the race in Centar, which voted narrowly for SDS at the last general elections but was won by DPMNE at the municipal level for a number of elections before Zernovski’s win.
SEC spokeswoman Ljupka Gugucevska said that the 27 independent mayoral candidates are running in a total of 22 municipalities, including in Bitola, Ohrid, Negotino and Dojran. The 47 independent lists for municipal councils are distributed between 47 municipalities, with Makedonski Brod alone reportedly having more than a dozen.
Parties have until September 14th to submit their candidates to the SEC. Some of the candidates have been named officially, with SDS proposing member of Parliament and its spokesman Petre Silegov to compete for the capital Skopje, most likely against incumbent Mayor Koce Trajanovski from the DPMNE. DPMNE nominated doctor Marjan Bajraktarov for Strumica and doctor and member of Parliament Zoran Gjorgjievski for Kumanovo, the two major cities which VMRO-DPMNE hopes to win over from SDS. Incumbent Veles Mayor Slavco Cadiev was confirmed by DPMNE for another run.
SDS made public a number of their candidates, including Soros activist Zlatko Marin for Aerodrom and member of Parliament Stefan Bogoev for Karposh, the two large central Skopje municipalities which SDS hopes to win over from DPMNE and the GROM party. SDS also nominated Milikije Halimi in the village of Aracinovo, east of Skopje, in a move which might make the race with several largely ethnic Albanian parties, some of whom are SDS coalition members, very competitive.
Another issue raised on Tuesday at the SEC was whether Health Minister Arben Taravari will be able to stay in this position while he campaigns for Mayor of Gostivar. Gugucevska said that the SEC will make its position on the issue clear once Taravari officially submits his nomination. He surprised the public by announcing this run, on behalf of the Alliance of Albanians, so soon after assuming the Health Ministry office, and intimated that he will leave politics if he loses the race in Gostivar against DUI’s incumbent Mayor Nevzat Bejta who is already in Court proceedings for abuse of office.