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 in June 2008. Gruevski has headed the ruling VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for National Unity) since 2003. (The party’s then-leader and one-time Prime Minister, Ljubco Georgievski, stepped down that year following a major election defeat and a resultant split with 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. Gruevski 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 held ministerial portfolios and other key positions. With a view to strengthening ties with Macedonians abroad and increasing FDI, four members of the diaspora were appointed to the prime minister's cabinet.
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 investment, he enacted many policies intended to open the country to capital markets. Private and corporate profit tax rates were lowered; newly established businesses were exempted from paying taxes in their first year of operations. 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 now focus on other issues. We are now focused on NATO, 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 made much headway under Gruevski's premiership. While the government (and the nation as a whole) hoped to receive an invitation to join NATO at the recent summit in Bucharest, such hopes were crushed by a Greek veto, issued on account of the long-standing dispute about Macedonia's name.
In the wake of the summit, on 11 April 2008, after Gruevski accepted a proposal for early elections by the Democratic Union of Albanians (DUI), the Macedonian parliament voted to dissolve itself. Gruevski's party pulled off a landslide victory, taking more than 47 percent of the vote and securing an absolute majority of seats (63 out of 120). The elections were marked by serious irregularities, however, as well as violence between the two main Albanian groupings, the 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.