New Macedonian president’s sobering victory

New Macedonian president’s sobering victory
Photo: БГНЕС

Macedonia got a new president. The pro-West oriented candidate of the ruling parties SDSM and DUI Stevo Pendarovski will become the fifth Macedonian president, after gaining 51,6% support in Sunday’s second tour of voting. His political rival Gordana Siljanovska, backed up by the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, got 44,7% of the votes.

It seems that the winner in these elections was known. The one and real fear before the voting was whether the threshold of 40% of registered voters needed for the validity of the second tour will be reached. This fear was based on the low motivation of the voters having in mind the limited constitutional powers of the president, as well as the collective depression and lethargy of the voters tightly linked with the governance of the ruling parties who did not live up to the people’s expectations.

Nevertheless, the turnout of the voters according to the State electoral commission was 46,7% which means that the presidential election was successful. In his first speech after the election Pendarovski expressed many thanks in Macedonian and Albanian language, saying that he is going to be president of all citizens no matter of ethnic, political, religious belonging. He did not forget to mention other smaller communities in Macedonia: Serbs, Turks, Roma. Pendarovski said that the dark past is behind the Macedonian citizens thanks to their mature and wise decision.

The president of the VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski didn’t congratulate Pendarovski for winning the elections either. He made a tough speech promising political hell for Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and for the newly elected president

On the other hand, his rival Ms. Siljanovska admitted the defeat but she did not openly congratulate her opponent – something that the public was expecting and which is common for a democratic society. After the election results were announced and it became clear that Pendarovski has won the elections, she said that she knows who the winner is but that she as an individual doesn’t feel as a loser. The president of the VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski didn’t congratulate Pendarovski for winning the elections either. He made a tough speech promising political hell for Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and for the newly elected president. Mickoski’s strongly nationalist rhetoric shows that the leadership of VMRO-DPMNE doesn’t want to peel off from the previous regime of Nikola Gruevski, whose 12-year rule became known as a period of captured state.

Nevertheless, this election shows that VMRO-DPMNE still has strong support among ethnic Macedonians. Siljanovska got nearly 60 000 votes more than in the first round. Having in mind that she has no support among ethnic Albanians, it is clear that VMRO-DPMNE has a stabile electoral mass of voters to count on in every election. The result also confirms Mickoski’s legitimacy as an undisputed leader of the party after the controversial leadership of Nikola Gruevski. Still it is not clear whether Mickoski is under Gruevski’s influence or not. Though Mickoski denies that, he has never distanced the party from Gruevski’s leadership and its results.

At the same time Pendarovski got 113 000 votes more compared to the first round. It is hard to believe that all these votes came from the ethnic Albanians, respectively the votes of Blerim Reka, the third presidential candidate who won nearly 80 000 votes in the first round.

Pendarovski won only due to the self-consciousness of the citizens who were not willing to reward VMRO-DPMNE and voted for Pendarovski with hard feelings. Not because Pendarovski is a “bad” candidate but because they think that SDSM needs and can do better

The governing coalition partner – Albanian DUI, claims that around 100000 votes for Pendarovski came from ethnic Albanians. But this is a very disputable assertion because the turnout in the areas populated mostly by ethnic Albanians was low. It is clear that DUI with its voters increased Pendarovski’s advantage against his rival. But it is also clear that in the second round the ruling party SDSM succeed to mobilize its voters by promising to fix the problems with nepotism, fight against corruption and establishing the rule of law.

But Pendarovski’s victory is not a motive for celebration. Pendarovski lost the support of most cities in which ethnic Macedonians prevail, and this should be an imminent signal for the ruling SDSM. The massage from the citizens is strong enough. Pendarovski won only due to the self-consciousness of the citizens who were not willing to reward VMRO-DPMNE and voted for Pendarovski with hard feelings. Not because Pendarovski is a “bad” candidate but because they think that SDSM needs and can do better. That’s why they sent the party a message in the first round by staying at home. The same stands for the ethnic Albanian voters.

During these elections all the Macedonian citizens showed democratic maturity and civic responsibility. That’s why all political leaders should bow to them. At the same time they wanted to say that they’re not just numbers but humans who want to live in a democratic and Europe oriented society. After the big political crises, which happened two years ago, the citizens are demanding more results from the politicians. They are encouraged to ask for real social, economic and legal reforms, which will lead to higher standards, better life and legal security.

Pendarovski said that his priority will be getting a date for opening membership negotiations with the EU this June. He also said that his first visit after entering the presidential cabinet will be either to Brussels or to some of the neighboring countries. Until now he served as a national coordinator for NATO membership, so no one doubts that he will deliver his competence on the foreign policy. Also, having good knowledge of the structure and the capacity of the Macedonian defence, he is expected to be successful commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The result of this election should serve as a warning for two main parties – SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE

It was Pendarovski’s second run for president. He did not succeed to win five years ago. Now he has five years in front of him to justify the people’s trust. The result of this election should serve as a warning for two main parties – SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE. SDSM should give up its well-known elitism, stop the nepotism and start implementing real reforms. VMRO-DPMNE should initiate self-party reform, clear itself from the previous leadership and establish itself as modern right-oriented party. Finally, ethnic Albanian party DUI, which has been in power for 15 years (in coalition with two parties – VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM), this time should understand that the ethnic Albanian voters have awakened and that it should not take their votes for granted.

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