23/03/2009 - Results - 1st round
The candidate of present Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's party – the Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) – Gjorgji Ivanov won the first round of the presidential election on 22nd March in Macedonia. He won 35.04% of the vote. He lies ahead of Ljubomir Frckoski, former Interior and Foreign Affairs Minister who has the support of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the New Social Democratic Party (NSDP) who won 20.4% of the vote. A second round is due to bring the two men face to face on 5th April.
Imer Selmani, leader of New Democracy (DR), the Albanian-speaking party founded in September 2008 came third with 15% of the vote ahead of Ljube Boskovski, former Interior Minister who was standing as an independent candidate and who won 14.88% of the vote.
The Macedonians were also voting on 22nd March in local elections. According to incomplete results the VMRO-DPMNE will win 23 of the 85 towns involved in the election – only four have been won by the SDSM. As for the Albanian speakers the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI-BDI) led by Alija Ahmeti is said to have taken a great number of town councils.
"Gjorgji Ivanov won and has an easy lead for the second round,
" said Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on the announcement of the first results. The head of government pointed out that by its vote the electorate had confirmed its support of the policy undertaken for the last two and a half years which has enabled Macedonia to make in depth reform. This presidential election was a test for the VMRO-DPMNE both in terms of results and support for its political action as well as the smooth running of the voting.
The first round of the presidential election took place in a satisfactory manner overall. No incident or major infringement was recorded. "The mood in the first round of the presidential election was calm and we congratulate the members of the electoral commissions and especially the electorate, who in spite of the bad weather, turned out to vote. We shall have to wait for the final report of course but as far as I could see in the polling stations I visited the election took place in a reasonably calm manner,
" declared Erwan Fouéré, EU Special Representative in Macedonia. "The presidential election took place in a good mood, without incident nor major infringements,
" indicated the chairman of the Electoral Commission Aleksander Novkovski.
524 foreign observers and 6981 local observers monitored the election for which the police force had increased its contingent. The Interior Minister warned that no type of incident would be tolerated. The authorities wanted to avoid a repetition of the events that took place during the last general elections on 1st June 2008. These were marked by violence which led to the death of one person and injured 9.
The international community made the transparent, democratic nature of this election a key issue. The European Union recalled that the democratic nature of the election was a vital element for the potential opening of EU membership negotiations with Macedonia, an official candidate since 2005.
Finally the only impediment to the voting was the weather. Indeed heavy snowfalls prevented the opening of 103 polling stations depriving 12,596 i.e. 1% of the electorate, of their presidential election. 134 stations in the west of the country could not open due to heavy snowfalls, since the bad weather prevented the Macedonian authorities from delivering the voting slips.
The dispute over Macedonia's name is due to be the focus of the campaign in the second round, since both candidates do not agree on the strategy to adopt. Gjorgji Ivanov, who stands as the candidate of unification and assembly promises to take the country closer to the European Union and NATO. Nikola Gruevski has adopted a hard line refusing any change to Macedonia's name which can only endanger the nation's unity. Ljubomir Frckoski is in favour of a compromise with Greece. In his opinion membership of the EU and NATO must be the country's priority in terms of foreign policy and Macedonia must not be excluded from these two organizations because of an intransigent position over the country's name.
No one knows whether the leading Albanian speaking candidate, Imer Selmani, who focused his campaign on the need for Macedonians and the Albanians to agree and work together for the economic development of the country, will call for people to vote in the second round for either one or the other candidates still running; it is not known either whether the Albanian speaking electorate will turn out to ballot on 5th April. One thing is certain however: the vote of the Albanian speakers will be decisive.