North Macedonian President Expects Peaceful Elections Despite Opposition Lead

North Macedonia's presidential election sees right-wing candidate take lead, raising concerns over EU integration as the country faces challenges in its accession process.

Salman Khan
New Update
North Macedonian President Expects Peaceful Elections Despite Opposition Lead

North Macedonian President Expects Peaceful Elections Despite Opposition Lead

North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski expressed confidence in a peaceful election process for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, despite opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova taking a significant lead in the first round of the presidential vote.

In the April 24 presidential election, Siljanovska-Davkova, backed by the rightist VMRO-DPMNE party, secured around 40% of the votes, while incumbent Pendarovski, supported by the ruling pro-European Social Democrats, came in second with nearly 20%. "I was surprised and disappointed with the result," Pendarovski admitted, but added that he hopes for improvement in the May 8 runoff, including with the support of the Albanian community.

The presidential vote is seen as a litmus test for the parliamentary election, also scheduled for May 8. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE is seeking to unseat the center-left Social Democrats, who have struggled to advance North Macedonia's European Union accession talks. Turnout in the first round was over 48%, higher than the 2019 presidential election.

Why this matters: The election outcome could determine North Macedonia's future direction regarding EU integration. The country's accession process has faced challenges, including opposition from EU members Greece and Bulgaria over issues related to national identity and minority rights.

Siljanovska-Davkova called the result the beginning of a "new era" and urged voters to prove that North Macedonia belongs in Europe. Pendarovski vowed to keep campaigning as a pro-European candidate, describing his election result as a defeat for pro-European forces. The two candidates have expressed differing views on how to resolve the dispute with Bulgaria, which wants North Macedonia to recognize a Bulgarian minority in its constitution before backing EU membership talks.

With neither candidate securing the 50% needed to win outright, the runoff on May 8 alongside the parliamentary elections will be crucial in determining North Macedonia's path forward. Pendarovski said he would continue promoting the concept of a state that is integrated into Europe, while the Social Democrats acknowledged the first-round result as a setback. Analysts doubt if a VMRO-DPMNE victory would significantly change the stalled EU accession talks with Bulgaria.

Key Takeaways

  • North Macedonia's presidential election saw right-wing candidate Siljanovska-Davkova lead.
  • Incumbent Pendarovski came in second, vowing to continue pro-EU campaign.
  • Runoff election on May 8 will determine North Macedonia's EU integration path.
  • Siljanovska-Davkova called result a "new era", Pendarovski saw it as pro-EU defeat.
  • Analysts doubt VMRO-DPMNE victory would significantly change stalled EU talks with Bulgaria.