Thursday, November 25, 2010

Macedonia Arrest Leaves Albanian Opposition Red-Faced

Latest revelations in the so-called 'spy files' affair are likely to boost the political ascendancy among Macedonian Albanians of the governing Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia's Albanian political scene was in turmoil after police on Tuesday said they had arrested a former senior officer, Hisen Musliu, suspected of fabricating secret police files naming leaders of the ruling Democratic Union of Integration, DUI, as spies.

The DUI is the largest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia and is a junior partner in government with the centre-right VMRO-DPMNE of Nikola Gruevski.

But what caused consternation among Albanians, one-quarter of the country's population, were police claims that Musliu had confessed to working for the DUI’s bitter rival, the smaller Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA.

"This will strengthen the DUI’s domination [of the Macedonian Albanian bloc] as it portrays them as victims of a political set-up," Marko Trosanovski, a communications and marketing expert from the Institute for Democracy think tank, said.

Police said that the incriminating material found at Musliu’s home included four alleged secret police dossiers naming DUI leaders, including party head Ali Ahmeti, as former Yugoslav and Serbian spies in the 1980s and 1990s.

"After this, the DUI can count on strengthening its already high level of support among [Macedonian] Albanians, although this will not necessarily attract sympathy votes from the general public," Trosanovski added.

He believes some members of the public will probably suspect that the DUI used its position in power to lean on the police.

Macedonia's "spy files" affair erupted last month after anonymous persons handed in four dossiers to the country's Lustration Commission, a body tasked with purifying the public administration of former communist spies.

The DUI immediately suspected that the affair was of the DPA’s making, while the Commission refused to probe the four files, arguing that they were photocopies and that they needed the originals in order to launch an investigation.

Imer Ismaili, a political science professor at the University of South-Eastern Europe, based in Tetovo, western Macedonia, said the police action had left the DPA red-faced.

"The DPA leadership has acted irresponsibly and this shows them in a very bad light, pulling dirty tricks to discredit their political opponents," he told Balkan Insight.

But Trosanovski predicts that the DPA will hold onto its core supporters who will feel reassured by the claims of party leaders, flatly denying the police's claims.

Recent opinion polls show the DUI enjoys the support of about 9 per cent of voters, more than double the support that the DPA enjoys. Ali Ahmeti remains by far the most popular politician in the Albanian bloc.

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