Macedonia – Ruling party wins parliamentary election and presidential run-off

Another snap parliamentary election was held in Macedonia on 27 April, the third in a row since 2008. The outgoing coalition of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO–DPMNE) and the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) won more seats than in 2011. The ruling party’s candidate, incumbent Gjorge Ivanov, also won the presidential run-off comfortably, with more than 55% of the votes against Stevo Pendarovski, the candidate backed up by the opposition social democrats.

Ivanov’s victory was predictable, as he had received almost 52% of the votes in the first presidential round held on 13 April. However, a second presidential round had to be organized because fewer than 50% of the registered electorate turned out to vote. This time the turnout increased to 54.38, well above the 40% threshold required for the validation of the presidential run-off. However, this figure is still lower than the turnout for the parliamentary contest, which reached almost 63% of the electorate. The final results are the following:

  • Gjorge Ivanov (VMRO-DPMNE), 534,910 votes, 55.28%
  • Stevo Pendarovski (SDSM), 398,077 votes, 41.14%

The reason for calling early parliamentary elections was the dispute between the two coalition partners over the incumbent president’s candidacy for a second term in office. The DUI party’s calls for a common presidential candidate were turned down by VMRO-DPMNE, who decided to endorse the incumbent president’s bid for a second term in office. The DUI, however, did not regard President Ivanov as a legitimate candidate for the Albanian community. As a result, the junior coalition party filed a motion to dissolve the parliament and organise early elections concurrently with the presidential run-off. The motion was debated on 5 March in parliament and approved unanimously by the ruling parties and the opposition.

Although the DUI called an early general election in protest over their coalition partner’s choice of a presidential candidate, the party did not run their own candidate in the contest. Moreover, Albanian voters were advised to refrain from voting although an Albanian candidate nominated by the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) participated in the first round. An outspoken critic of the government, Stevo Pendarovski, the candidate supported by the opposition social-democrats, was also more likely to appeal to Albanian voters than the incumbent. Ultimately, the DUI did not leave the coalition with VMRO-DPMNE. Given their good results in the 2013 local elections, it looked like the political crisis over the presidential nomination had been staged in order to call for early general elections that advantaged both ruling parties.

The State Election Commission reported the following final results for the general election:

  • VMRO–DPMNE – 42.98%, 61 seats (+5)
  • Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) – 25.34%, 34 seats (-8)
  • Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) – 13.71%, 19 seats (+4)
  • Democratic Party of Albanians – 5.92%, 7 seats (-1)
  • Citizen Option for Macedonia (GROM) – 2.82%, 1 seat (New)
  • National Democratic Revival (NDP) – 1.59%, 1 seat (-1)

Unlike in 2011, the fortunes of the two coalition partners increased after the snap election. The VMRO–DPMNE party is now just one seat short of the absolute majority in the 123-seat parliament. The margin between the most successful Albanian parties also increased in favour of the incumbent DUI. Although a new centre-right party managed to enter the parliament, the early election weakened the opposition parties and especially the social democrats, who lost 8 seats. As a result, the outgoing coalition is expected to continue in office with VMRO–DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski as prime minister.

The difference in turnout between the two polls confirms the secondary importance of presidential elections compared to the parliamentary ones in Macedonia. Therefore, the president is likely to remain in the prime minister’s shadow. He may also become a factor of further ethnic tension, given the Albanian community’s boycott of the presidential election. As far as the future of Macedonia’s consociational arrangement is concerned, these elections raise an important question. Will the present institutional arrangements reign in the increasing nationalist rhetoric of the two governing parties, or will their increasing nationalism doom the present consociational balance?

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