14/04/2004 - Analysis - 1st round
The accidental death of the Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, on 26th February in an air crash led the president of Parliament Ljubco Jordanovski, who is responsible for the presidency in the interim, to call for a presidential election in Macedonia on 14th April next.
The 47 year-old Macedonian President, who was elected on 5th December 1999, disappeared tragically as he was about to present Macedonia's official candidature to the European Union. Boris Trajkovski, a member of the Democratic Party for National Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), was a fervent defender of his country's European integration in which he saw the only means to achieve peace and stability in Macedonia and the Balkans. He distinguished himself during the conflict in 2001 between Macedonians and Albanians, who were threatening to start a civil war in the country, by committing himself to guaranteeing the application of the Ohrid agreements signed by the four main Macedonian and Albanian speaking parties on 13th August 2001 and that ended the violence between the two communities. Boris Trajkovski, who was extremely popular on the international political scene and recognised for his ability for dialogue and for his tolerance, was challenged in his own country.
Candidates in the presidential election
The President of the Republic of Macedonia is elected for a five year period - a mandate that is renewable only once. His powers are relatively limited. The President is the head of the armed forces and presides over the Republic's Security Council comprising the Prime Minister, the President of the Sobranie, the Macedonian Parliament, ministers responsible for areas linked to security, external relations and defence, as well as three people appointed by the President of the Republic.
The electoral law, that was amended by Parliament on 8th March last, obliges the President of Parliament, Ljubco Jordanovski to convene a presidential election within forty days, instead of the previous ninety from the moment when the interim President takes up his function. In addition to this each candidate in the election must procure a minimum of 10,000 citizens' and thirty MP's signatures in order to be able to stand for election.
Four people are officially standing as candidates for the position of President of the Republic of Macedonia. These are:
Branko Crvenkoski, 41 years old, present Prime Minister and the Social-Democrat Union of Macedonia's candidate (SDSM) ;
Gëzim Ostreni, 62 years old, general of the former Ushtria Clirimtare Kombëtare (UCK), the National Liberation Army of the Albanian Guerrilla, a candidate put forward by the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP), led by Abdulmenaf Bexheti, and Ali Ahmeti's Democratic Union for Integration (PDI), a party belonging to the present government coalition. On this occasion both parties formed a common campaign HQ;
Sasko Kedev, 42 years old, the candidate of the Democratic Party for National Macedonian Unity, the main opposition party in Parliament (VMRO-DPMNE) - he is a cardiologist by profession and entered politics last year;
Zudi Dzhelili, 43 years old, the Albanian Democratic Party candidate (PDA).
Arben Dzhaferi, the PDSh leader presented his candidature and then withdrew it. "I have no personal ambitions, I am going to develop the concepts of my political party, I shall renew our vision and present it to the Albanians, the Macedonians as well as the international community. Our main aim is to rid the 'Gentlemen' of the Democratic Union for Integration of their legitimacy in order to continue to play a role in the country's political life", he declared as he handed in his candidature. But the emblematic figure of the Albanians in Macedonia finally decided to serve Zudi Dzhelili. The latter recently stressed the fact that "by this the PDSh wanted to demonstrate both on a political level domestically and internationally that the Albanian question was still topical and unresolved in Macedonia".
Within the Social Democratic Union for Macedonia, the majority party in Parliament, three personalities confronted each other to stand in the presidential election: Branko Crvenkoski, the present Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, Defence Minister and Tito Petkovski, the unlucky candidate in the presidential election on 5th December 1999, who has invested the party's radical wing. On 14th March last the 104 regional offices of the SDSM met in order to debate the choice of candidate for the election on 14th April - Branko Crvenkoski was appointed as the party's candidate on 17th March during a national convention held by the movement. The Social Democrat of Macedonia initiated discussions with his partners within the government coalition that he leads - the Democratic Union for Integration (PDI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by Stojan Andov, the unlucky candidate in the presidential election of 5th December 1999. The Democratic Union for Integration would in fact be responsible for rallying the votes of the Albanian speaking population during the second round in favour of the SDSM candidate. As for the Liberal Party it finally chose to support the candidature of Sasko Kedev.
Branko Crvenkoski is also supported by the Union of Roms (SRM).
The opposition, for its part, appointed Sasko Kedev by secret ballot during the party's national convention on 14th March with 1600 delegates of the Democratic Party for National Macedonian Unity in attendance; the party's former leader Luco Georgievski provided his support to the party's official candidate in the presidential election. Sasko Kedev also has the support of the Turkish Movement and the Bosnian Democratic Party.
The VMRO-DPMNE candidate chose to start his presidential campaign in Ohrid, "the heart of Macedonia", and promised to work towards taking the country forwards to integration of the European Union and NATO, if he is elected.
"I expect of Macedonia that the presidential election happens in an extremely democratic manner. I expect someone to continue Boris Trajkovski's work. I am expecting initiatives in favour of stronger relations with the EU as well as a process for the development of the country's unity", declared the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi at the funeral of the Macedonian President. On 22nd March in Dublin Prime Minister Branko Crvenkoski officially handed over the request by Macedonia to join the European Union. "It is a great day for our country for it will define our future. A road has opened up before us that will be long and difficult but for which we have no alternative", declared the Prime Minister. Since this membership request took place less than a month after the tragic death of Boris Trajkovski no festive ceremony was organised to celebrate the event. The electoral campaign for the presidential election started on 30th March and will close on 13th April.
Reminder of the presidential election results on 31st October, 14th November and 5th November 1999
Participation rate: 65%
Source: Presidency of the Macedonian Republic
* : a third round was organised in 24 constituencies where voting was invalidated during the second round