North Macedonia’s ruling coalition nominates presidential candidate

North Macedonia’s ruling coalition nominates presidential candidate
Leaders of the SDSM and its partners discuss their choice of a joint candidate for the presidency.
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 3, 2019

North Macedonia’s ruling coalition led by the Social Democrats nominated the country’s coordinator for Nato accession Stevo Pendarovski as a presidential candidate for the upcoming election, supported by 30 smaller political parties.

The election is seen as the first test for the governing coalition of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and its junior partner the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, following the signing of the Prespa agreement. The deal, under which the country was renamed North Macedonia, solves the long-running dispute with Greece and opens the way for Nato and EU integration. The deal was strongly contested by the main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE.

Pendarovski, 55, is a professor of political science and a long term politician seen as having strong integrity. This will be his second run at the presidency. In the previous election in April 2014, Pendarovski, the SDSM candidate, was defeated by incumbent head of the state Gjorge Ivanov, who was supported by now opposition VMRO-DPMNE, which at that time was a strong ruling party.

“For the first time in history, 30 political parties, of all ethnic communities, have united around a common presidential candidate,” SDSM said in the statement, after Pendarovski was nominated at an inter-party ceremony held at the newly opened Hilton hotel in Skopje.

“North Macedonia needs a true president, partner and friend of the citizens and the future, a president with a high sense of responsibility, statehood and dedication, who will work for the Nato and the EU integration,” it was added.

Pendarovski’s main rival in the election will be VMRO-DPMNE’s nominee, law professor Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova. 

Siljanovska-Davkova is a harsh opponent of the Prespa name deal with Greece, and the adoption of the language law that made Albanian the second official language in the country.

Albanian parties Besa and the Alliance for Albanians picked Blerim Reka for their candidate, but he has a little chance to progress to the second round.

Pendarovski started his political career as assistant-minister for public relations in the interior ministry and head of the analytical and research department of that ministry in the period 1998–2001.

Then he served as national security adviser to late president Boris Trajkovski from 2001 to 2004. He was head of the State Electoral Commission in 2004-2005. From 2005 to 2009 Pendarovski was foreign policy adviser to ex-president Branko Crvenkovski.

Pendarovski graduated from Skopje’s Ss. Cyril and Methodius University’s law faculty and later earned MA and PhD degrees in political science.

The first round of election will be held on April 21. If no candidate wins 50% of the votes then a second round will be held on May 5 when the choice will narrow to two candidates with most votes. In the second round, the turnout has to be at least 40%.

This will be the sixth presidential vote in the country. The new president will replace Gjorge Ivanov, a former law professor, who, backed by VMRO-DPMNE, served two five-year mandates.