Pro-Western Candidate Scores Tiny Lead in North Macedonia’s Presidential Election
The lead of the leftist bidder is only several thousand votes.
Leftist, pro-Western candidate Stevo Pendarovski and conservative Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova have each won more than 42% of the votes in Sunday’s presidential election in the former Yugoslav republic of North Macedonia.
North Macedonia, called “Macedonia” until recently, formally changed its name under an agreement with Greece so as to settle a historical dispute with its southern neighbor and thus secure the lifting of a Greek veto on iits bids to join NATO and the EU.
Pendarovski is the candidate of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who championed and implemented the country’s name change, and is deem the pro-Western candidate in the presidential race.
Siljanovska-Davkova, on the other hand, is from the conservative and nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, which was adamantly opposed to the name dispute deal with Greece. VMRO-DPMNE’s former leader and former Prime Minister of the country for nearly a decade, Nikola Gruevski, is presently in exile to escape serving a sentence for abuses while in office.
Macedonia’s Presidency has primarily ceremonial functions but outgoing two-term President Gjeorge Ivanov, also from VMRO-DPMNE, did use its powers to temporarily block important pieces of legislation such as ratifying the name change deal with Greece.
Turnout in Sunday’s election was near 50%, with 1.8 million voters technically eligible to vote.
With 97% of the votes counted, Pendarovski received 42.85% of the votes (323,846 votes), Siljanovska-Davkova got 42.24% (319,240), and Blerim Reka, candidate of North Macedonia’s second largest ethnic Albanian party, won 10.57% (79,915 votes), MIA reported.
Pendarovski and Siljanovska-Davkova will face one another again in the runoff on May 5, 2019.
“I am reaching out to all, I will be the President of all citizens in a European Republic of North Macedonia. The “together” concept will win in the May 5 runoff. It is clear that the majority of the citizens – Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Bosniaks, Vlachs, Roma – have said they want to move “forward”, the ruling Social Democratic Party’s candidate told supporters after Sunday’s first election round.
“I’m aware that we are not done fighting. But if we have won so many votes, and if we add the votes won by Blerim Reka, the story is clear, since we both have been advocating for the rule of law and to end crime and corruption. Only this story could lead us to get a date for EU accession negotiations, otherwise we’ll remain stuck in transition,” Siljanovska stated.
“I am a professor of European law, so I’ll respect [the name change agreement with Greece]. But I’ll do my best to show that some of the solutions are against our constitution,” she added, raising the possibility of revising the Prespa Agreement with Greece.
(Banner image: Stevo Pendarovski on Twitter)