Nikola Gruevski is the 38-year old Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia who just won a second term in office after early elections conduced in June 2008. Gruevski heads the ruling VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for National Unity) since its former leader and former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski left the party in 2003 after a major election defeat in 2002, leading to a split between him and Gruevski.
Under Gruevski's leadership the VMRO-DPMNE emerged as the strongest party in the parliamentary elections of 2006, winning 44 of 120 parliamentary seats. He set up a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Albanians, the Liberal Party, the Socialist Party, the New Socialist Democratic Party and the Party for the Movement of Turks in Macedonia.
Gruevski's first government stood out for the number of new faces, many of them in their 30s who occupy ministries and other key positions. Four members of the Diaspora were appointed to the prime minister's cabinet, with a view to strengthening ties with Macedonians abroad and increasing FDI.
Gruevski is known for his strong emphasis on economics. Already during his term as Finance Minister, from 1999 to 2002, he introduced a Value Added Tax of 18 percent and sought to combat tax evasion and reduce the size of Macedonia's informal economy. As a strong believer in the importance of Foreign Direct Investment, he enacted many policies intended to make the country open to capital markets. Private and corporate profit tax rates were lowered and newly established businesses were exempt from taxes in their first year. Under Gruevski's premiership Macedonia's economic performance has gradually improved. In 2007 GDP grew by 5.1 percent – the highest rate of growth since independence.
Gruevski recalls the Ohrid Agreement as a compromise which left none of the parties fully satisfied, but admits,
"Now we have peace, we have understanding, we have implementation of this Ohrid framework agreement and we have focussed on other issues. We are now focussed on NATO we are now focused on the European Union… and on improving the business climate. According to the 'doing business' edition of 2008 of the World Bank, which is issued once a year, of 178 countries we are in 4th place according to positive reforms of the business climate in 2007."
Macedonian aspirations to move closer to the EU and NATO have not advanced much during Gruevski's premiership. While the government (and the nation as a whole) has put much hope to receive an invitation to join NATO at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, this hopes were crushed by Greece who vetoed the issuing of an invitation due to a long-standing dispute about Macedonia's name.
Shortly afterwards, on 11 April 2008, the Macedonian parliament voted to dissolve itself, after Prime Minister Gruevski had accepted a proposal for early elections by the Democratic Union of Albanians (DUI). Gruevski's party could pull off a landslide victory, taking more than 47 percent of the vote, resulting in an absolute majority of seats (63 out of 120). However, the elections were haunted by serious irregularities and violence between the two main ethnic Albanian contestants, DUI and the DPA. The election monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stated:
"Election day was marred by violent incidents, intimidation, and ballot box stuffing in predominantly ethnic Albanian areas. Although the security situation stabilized throughout the course of the day in these areas, early morning incidents left one person fatally wounded and several others injured."
"Organized efforts to violently disrupt the process early on election day made it impossible for voters in many places to freely express their will. While key OSCE and Council of Europe commitments were not met, the overall assessment will depend in part on whether the authorities will thoroughly investigate these serious violations of the law and take remedial steps."
After intense negotiations the VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition and the Democratic Union for Integration led by Ali Ahmeti announced the formation of a new government in July 2008.