North Macedonia presidential elections test support for contentious Prespa Agreement

Photo: Nake Batev/EPA
Photo: Nake Batev/EPA

Today, North Macedonia—formerly named Macedonia—will hold its first presidential election since last year’s contentious Prespa agreement.

Incumbent President Gjorge Ivanov, who vehemently opposed the name change, is constitutionally barred from running again. According to polls, Stevo Pendarovski of the ruling centre-left coalition government holds a narrow lead of 2% over Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova of the nationalist bloc. Mr Pendarovski supports the name change, while Ms Siljanovska-Davkova strongly opposes it.

Expect this election to go to a second-round vote on May 5 as neither candidate is likely to secure the necessary 50% of first round voting today.

Should Siljanovska-Davkova win in the second-round, implementation of the name change will be difficult, but not impossible. Ms Siljanovska-Davkova could use presidential veto powers to delay the process, but there remains enough numbers in parliament to bypass any veto by a two-thirds vote.

A Pendarovski win will cement the name-change in law and likely speed up the process for implementation. This should speed up the accession of North Macedonia to NATO and then eventually to the EU.

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