On March 1 it was announced that Macedonia is set to call early parliamentary elections in order to end a political deadlock sparked by the two main ruling coalition members. They cannot agree on a candidate for the upcoming presidential vote. Yesterday all parties have given their consent, therefore parliament is expected to dissolve tomorrow.
Current political situation
The two ruling parties in parliament are the centre-right Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), which holds 56 seats, and the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which holds 23 seats out of 123. On April 13, the first round of the presidential election is scheduled. If there is no winner, which is expected, a second round takes place two weeks later.
VMRO-DPMNE rejected the idea of a mutually agreed presidential candidate. Instead they nominated the current president, Gjorge Ivanov, as their candidate. The junior coalition member DUI was angered by this and therefore demanded early general elections.
General elections are scheduled for 2015 but will now probably take place on April 27. This would coincide with the second round of voting in the presidential election. Attention is expected to shift away from the presidential race, which is largely a ceremonial post, to the battle for seats in parliament.
Reaction ruling parties
Currently VMRO-DPMNE, in power since 2006, is the strongest party in parliament and still enjoys strong support. They “accepted the challenge and are ready for an early vote.” The ruling parties together have enough votes to pass the motion. Last week a group of more than fifty prominent persons backed the re-election of the current president, Ivanov. The party wanted to choose the presidential runner at a convention on March 1, were anyone could apply. According to Vladimir Misev, from the think tank Institute for Democracy, this petition is part of Ivanov’s re-election campaign and a way to announce his candidacy. Besides Ivanov, three persons of opposition parties will run as candidate.
DUI is not happy with Ivanov, candidate of VMRO-DPMNE. According to them, Ivanov is not a consensual candidate because he is not acceptable to both Albanians and Macedonians. Ethnic Albanians represent roughly a quarter of Macedonia’s two million population. Because the candidate is not acceptable to everyone DUI filed a motion to dissolve parliament on March 1.
DUI will not file anyone as candidate themselves. This does not mean there will not be an Albanian candidate: opposition party Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), filed Iljaz Halimi as candidate. Halimi said he was not entering with any hope of winning, but he wants to send a message. Namely, that the country belongs to Albanians as well.
Reaction opposition parties
The main opposition Social Democratic party (SDSM) said it would support early elections. They put Stevo Pendarovski forward as presidential candidate. Pendarovski is a serious challenge to Ivanov as he is seen as an acceptable candidate by the Albanian minority. Although SDSM support DUI’s motion, the party described the apparent crisis between the two ruling parties as a fabrication. It might be prearranged in order to have an excuse to have early elections. Because currently both parties are doing well in opinion polls, which makes it likely they will win another four-year term.
Because elections approach, the two main parties in government are mobilizing their ethnic supporters in order to strengthen their bargaining positions in the next government.