13/03/2009 - D-7 - 1st round
1,792,082 voters are being called to ballot on 22nd March in the first round of the Macedonian presidential election. If none of the candidates wins the absolute majority then a second round will be organised on 5th April. Outgoing Head of State Branko Crvenkovski (Social Democratic Union – SDSM) has chosen not to stand again.
On 22nd March Macedonians will also appoint their local representatives. The local elections are organised every four years.
7 candidates are running for the supreme office in Macedonia:
- Gjorgji Ivanov, professor of law at the University of Skopje, the candidate put forward by the Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), the present Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's party;
- Ljubomir Frckoski, professor of international law at the University of Skopje, former Interior and Foreign Affairs Minister, supported by the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), and the New Social Democratic Party (NSDP);
- Ljube Boskovski, former Interior Minister acquitted by the ICTY in The Hague after having been indicted for war crimes (for having held the command of a police unit which is said to have tortured and assassinated Albanians in August 2001 in Ljuboten (the judgement is not final however since the prosecutor has appealed against this), is standing as an independent candidate;
- Imer Selmani, leader of New Democracy (DR), an Albanian speaking party founded in September 2008;
- Agron Buxhaku, the Democratic Union for Integration candidate (DUI-BDI), a party led by Alija Ahmeti;
- Mirushe Hoxha, candidate for the Democratic Albanian Party (PDA-PDSh), member of the present government coalition, a party led by Menduh Thaci;
- Nano Ruzin, the Democratic Liberal Party candidate (LDP) a party led by Risto Penov.
This time there is one unusual phenomenon, five of the seven candidates are university professors. "The fact that five candidates are teachers reveals the political parties' low level of professionalism and shows that the profession of 'politician' has not really become a true part of Macedonian society; as a result the parties rely on an elite from other professions,
" says Zidas Daskalovski of the Research and Policy Centre.
The transparent, democratic nature of the election is the major issue at stake this time round, since the powers enjoyed by the head of State are relatively limited and his post is mainly an honorary one.
"The organisation of elections that fall in line with international standards is a key factor in enabling the European Commission to decide if it is possible to commence membership negotiations,
" declared the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn. "Every citizen has to the right to free and fair elections as well as being able to vote freely to choose his/her mayor and his/her president of the Republic,
" indicated Philip Reeker, US Ambassador in Macedonia on 4th March. He travelled to Tetovo to meet the leaders of the three Albanian speaking parties – New Democracy, Democratic Union for Integration and the Albanian Democratic Party – to give them a message from American President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with regard to the vital nature of this presidential election. Philip Reeker also met the six candidates running for the town hall of Tetovo.
37 OSCE representatives have been asked to observe the election. On 6th March six of the seven candidates running (all except the only woman, Mirushe Hoxha) signed an agreement to say that the presidential election would be run democratically.
The VMRO-DPMNE suggested on 2nd March the division of Tetovo, the country's second biggest town in term of its population, into several municipalities according to the model adopted in Skopje and the appointment of a Macedonian to chair the town council to protect Macedonian economic and cultural interests. The DUI-BDI expressed its anger at this announcement whilst the DR leader Imer Selmani denounced this proposal for its lack of responsibility. "The idea goes against the Ohrid Agreements and weakens the notion of multi-ethnicity,
" says Jeton Shasivari, professor at the University of South East Europe (Stoel).
At present the town of Tetovo has 31 town councillors, five of whom are Macedonian.
According to a poll by the Institute of Democracy at the beginning of March, Gjorgji Ivanov is due to win the first round with 25.5% of the vote. He is due to come out ahead of Ljubomir Frcksoki who in turn is due to win 12.1% and Imer Selmani, 11.7%, Ljube Boskovski 8.8%, Agron Buxhaku 4.8%, Nano Ruzin 3.6% and Mirushe Hoxha 1.5%.
17.7% of those interviewed said they still had not decided how they were going to vote.
Most Macedonians believe that the future president should firstly take care of economic issues (51%). More than one quarter (27%) highlight the country's accession to the EU and NATO and 11% inter-ethnic relations.
The electoral campaign will start on March 1st and end on 20th March at midnight.