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Dec 11, 2017 14:35 EEST
December 11 (SeeNews) - Macedonia's main opposition conservative VMRO-DPMNE party said its president Nikola Gruevski has resigned due to its shattering defeat in the local elections in October.
Gruevski explained the loss with the disappointment of the supporters of the party and accused the governing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) of applying pressure, blackmails, bribery and intimidation during the elections, the party said in a statement on Sunday.
VMRO-DPMNE convened an extraordinary congress on December 22 and 23 to select a new president, the party said.
According to media reports, the main candidates for the post are former foreign ministers Nikola Popovski and Antonio Milososki, as well as executive board member Ilija Dimovski.
VMRO-DPMNE won a close victory against SDSM in the early aprliamentary elections in December 2016, but failed to agree with ethnic Albanian party DUI on the formation of a coalition government after the negotiations stumbled over the official use of the Albanian language in the country, among other issues. In February, the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev, said he has secured the support of three ethnic Albanian parties to form a government.
In the subsequent local elections in October, VMRO-DPMNE won in only five out of 80 municipalities. SDSM won in 57 municipalities, including the capital Skopje.
In May, Macedonia's Special Public Prosecutor's Office, SJO, said it is investigating Nikola Gruevski and several other party members over suspected abuse of office and money laundering. In the 2009-2015 period VMRO-DPMNE had allegedly received 4.9 million euro ($5.8 million) in illegal donations and used the proceeds to pay for hotel and catering services and public opinions surveys, and to buy real estate, the SJO said.
The party does not agree to a change in the country's name, on which Macedonia's southern neighbour Greece insists. The dispute with Athens is among the main reasons for the lack of progress in the EU integration process of Macedonia, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said last month.
Gruevski has been at the helm of VMRO-DPMNE since 2003 when he succeeded former president and prime minister Ljubco Georgievski. He was Macedonia's prime minister for ten years, between 2006 and 2016.
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