It may be said that the results of Macedonia’s presidential elections, the first round of which will be held on April 13, might be predicted with some accuracy only after they have been held.
If that sounds contradictory, it is. However, it is also true that the first round of voting in the presidential race on April 23 will be a firm pointer first and most obviously to what is likely to happen in the second round (apart from, even more obviously, shortlisting just two candidates) but also to what will happen on April 27 when Macedonians vote in early parliamentary elections.
Among recent polls regarding the presidential elections, one forecast narrow victory for Gjorge Ivanov, candidate of the ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE. Another handed victory to his rival, socialist SDSM’s Stevo Pendarovski. A third poll saw Ivanov taking close to 30 per cent of support with Penarovski trailing a poor second at just more than 16 per cent.
That poll, by the way, saw VMRO-DPMNE having 27 per cent of support ahead of Macedonia’s April 27 parliamentary elections and SDSM at just more than 15 per cent – a claim that if true would again assure current prime minister Nikola Gruevski’s domination of politics and the parliament in Skopje (the same poll described Gruevski as his country’s most popular politician, by far).
If returned as head of state, it would be the second term in office for Ivanov, who got 63 per cent in a second-round election four years ago, seeing off socialist rival Lyubomir Frckoski.
Part of the narrative in the presidential election was the call by Albanian DUI party leader Ali Ahmeti on ethnic Albanians to stay away from the presidential elections.
It was a falling-out between Gruevski and Ahmeti over a DUI demand for the presidential election system to be changed to an indirect one, with the head of state chosen by the legislature instead of directly, that prompted Gruevski to tag ahead-of-term parliamentary elections on the presidential second-round vote on April 27.
DUI’s idea was to have parliament elect the president, on the understanding that parties woudl come up with a “consensus figure” – widely interpreted as meaning that it could be possible for an ethnic Albanian to be chosen as head of state, a prospect seen as highly improbable in the case of a direct vote.
The presidential election campaigns have passed without televised debates and with few interviews with the leading candidates. Reportedly, Ivanov was been kept away from the studio cameras after dropping clangers in a television interview in which he is quoted as as having said, among other things, that Kazakhstan was as big as all the countries in Europe put together.
As to the matter of boycotts, Albanian Democratic Party PDSH presidential candidate Iljaz Halimi has rejected the DUI call for a boycott of the presidential elections.
“Let us vote for change…by making Albanians a factor,” Halimi said, as quoted by the Independent Balkan News Agency.
Voting in the presidential and early parliamentary elections will be heavily scrutinised by a large number of domestic and foreign observers.
On April 7, the Macedonian state election commission said that by that date, 8325 domestic and 326 foreign observers had been accredited for the two sets of elections, along with 222 interpreters.
The OSCE/ODIHR mission has accredited 41 observers, OSCE 91 observers, Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council 21 observers, EU 27 observers, US embassy 27 observers, Sweden 13 observers, Italy 12, Turkey 11, Bulgaria and the Netherlands six each, Kosovo five, Greece, Poland, Albania, Austria three observers, IBNA reported.