Presidential election in North Macedonia: the right-wing candidate in the lead ahead of the outgoing president after the first round

The lead is so comfortable for Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova that she calls it “the beginning of a new era”

Presidential election in North Macedonia: the right-wing candidate in the lead ahead of the outgoing president after the first round

The lead is so comfortable for Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova that she calls it “the beginning of a new era”. According to partial results provided by the electoral commission, on Wednesday evening, April 24, the right-wing candidate came first in the first round of the presidential election of North Macedonia, whose campaign revolved around a crucial issue for the future of the country: whether or not to accept the conditions set by the European Union to be able to enter.

After 90% of the ballots were counted, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, who led the polls, won 39.97% of the vote, far ahead of the current president, Stevo Pendarovski – a social democrat – who received 19.90 % voices.

“Certainly this result is incredibly inspiring to me. I am sure of one thing: what I promised, I will do in my own way,” responded Ms. Siljanovska-Davkova.

“We were hoping for less of a gap, but tomorrow is another day,” for his part, tempered the outgoing president. “My task is to promote the Europe that I believe in, a state which is not isolated, which will be integrated into Europe,” he said.

Bulgaria's requirements

The second round will take place on May 8 in this Balkan state of 1.8 million inhabitants, where political life has been mired for years in discussions on whether or not to comply with the demands of the Union European Union (EU) and especially neighboring Bulgaria. The latter first insisted that the Macedonian language be considered as a simple Bulgarian dialect, which Skopje refused. Then, secondly, she demanded the inclusion of the Bulgarian minority in the Constitution, at the risk of failing the negotiations for North Macedonia's accession to the European Union.

The two main candidates for the presidency of this country – which has already had to change its name to end a conflict with another neighbor, Greece – do not agree on the response to give to Brussels.

Stevo Pendarovski wants to immediately revise the Constitution to advance negotiations with the EU for its integration, for which North Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005. Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, supported by the main right-wing party, VRMO-DPMNE, wants to wait until his country becomes a member of the EU before changing the basic law.

“If it were enough to revise the Constitution to enter the European Union, we would already be there,” this 71-year-old woman dismissed with the back of her hand during the electoral campaign, promising to “not forget the interests nationals”. “Let’s unite the nation,” she said during her last campaign meeting. “Only together can we make each other proud. And above all, make this small state a respected European state.

The challenge of rallying the other candidates

The first round was also marked by a participation increase of 8 points compared to the first round of elections in 2019: 49.75% of voters turned out.

The rallying of the five other candidates for the election will be the other challenge of the second round. Among them two candidates from the Albanian minority, which represents about a quarter of the population: Bujar Osmani, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, candidate of the Albanian party DUI, came 3rd with 13.68% of the votes. Arben Taravari, supported by a three-party coalition called “Vlen” (“It’s worth it”), received 9.6%.

Beyond a referendum on the posture to adopt towards the EU, the first round will also have been an opportunity to determine the balance of power between the different parties before May 8, the date of both the second round and legislative elections. But for many citizens, it is above all a question of putting an end to the flight of youth.