IBNA OP-ED/Zoran Zaev, the politician from Strumica who became Prime Minister

IBNA OP-ED/Zoran Zaev, the politician from Strumica who became Prime Minister

By Naser Pajaziti

From the provincial town of Strumica, the 43 year old Zoran Zaev climbed the ladder of power in FYROM, by becoming the Prime Minister of the country. His political battle has not been an easy one, as he managed to remove from power VMRO-DPMNE’s Nikola Gruevski, who had been in power for the past 11 years.

Zaev has promised that his government will focus on the poor people and increase the standards of living. He has often mentioned this by saying that when he was young, he worked as a farmer and that he has also done other manual jobs.

After graduating in economics, the social democrat leader becomes part of the family business and succeeds. In 1998, he enters politics as part of SDSM, the party that succeeded the Socialist League. Initially, Zaev acted as a local activist and thanks to his reputation in his birth place, Strumica, in 2003 he is elected MP.  Two years later, he runs for the post of the mayor of Strumica, where he registers an astounding victory, thanks to his charisma.

To many people, he reflects optimism and hope. Thanks to this governing style and the results achieved as mayor, in 2007-2008 Zaev is announced as one of the best mayors in Europe and is given an award by the Council of Europe. During this period, he’s arrested by VMRO-DPMNE’s rule on charges of involvement in organized crime and abuse in the line of duty, relating to the construction of a commercial center called “Global” in the center of Strumica. He’s arrested and released six days later, following an amnesty announced by the then president Branko Crvenkovski. The latter considered the arrest a political trap, because during this time, Zaev was vice chairman of the biggest opposition force, SDSM.

In the summer of 2013, he was elected leader of SDSM, managing to reform a part of the party. However, lost several elections due to the fractions within the party and the failure to consolidate it. Zaev achieved a real blow in the political arena with the publication of recorded conversations at the beginning of 2015, which gave details of the way Nikola Gruevski’s power functioned. The conversations showed criminal offenses, corruption and other illicit activities.

During this period, Zaev started to earn the sympathy of the Albanian community too and through a new strategy, he managed to include in his party’s ranks Albanian personalities such as professors, journalists and other names. In the recent elections, Zaev said that SDSM had made a turn by obtaining the votes of 40 thousand Albanians. This narrowed the difference with VMRO-DPMNE by 2 seats. VMRO-DPMNE with 51 seats, as opposed to SDSM which had won 49 seats, launched talks with Albanian parties, but they failed. This enabled Zaev to negotiate with Albanian parties for the creation of the government, but the obstacle was created by the fact that president George Ivanov was not giving a mandate to Zaev, as he requested further guarantees that the country’s unity would not be threatened through the declaration of the Albanian parties. But Zaev managed to send VMRO-DPMNE of Nikola Gruevski to opposition.

In his career, he’s also known for the success that he has seen in his private family business in Strumica, where he still lives with his wife, Zorica Zaeva and two children, Alexandra and Dushko. /balkaneu.com/

*Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IBNA’s editorial policy.