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North Macedonia on the eve of presidential elections

North Macedonia on the eve of presidential elections

The presidential campaign in North Macedonia is coming to an end. Seven candidates are in the race; of them two Albanians, who are convinced that they will go to the second round. Contestants and their parties have accused some of their political opponents of being close to the Russian Federation or of obstructing the country's integration processes towards the EU. The new president is expected to be elected in a runoff on May 8, when the parliamentary elections are also held

The presidential campaign in North Macedonia is coming to an end. A harsh rhetoric prevailed in it. The elections are held on April 24. Although the election silence comes into effect 24 hours before this date, on the other hand, the campaign for the May 8 parliamentary elections continues without a hitch, something that happens for the first time in this Balkan country.

The Albanian candidates are confident that they will go to the second round, but this has not happened to an Albanian contestant so far in North Macedonia. It is clear that Albanian politicians compete in the presidential elections to see how much support they have among the electorate, especially in such circumstances when the parliamentary elections are held only two weeks later.

The leaders of the Albanian opposition coalition "Vlen" went to Germany and Switzerland for meetings with the diaspora in search of votes. Arben Taravari, knowing the difficulties of immigrants to return just to vote, asks them to influence their family and relatives in their homeland to vote for the candidate of the VLEN coalition on April 24 and for the parliamentary elections of May 8.

"You are not here by chance because you wanted to, but because you have seen a lot of injustice and dysfunction of the state; the rule of law, the economy, etc. On April 24 who wins, May 8 is ready. Capitulation. We value that day very much. If you think you should support us, lobby who can and welcome, because you create a winning atmosphere and spirit. Who can't come, at least a phone call where you can, a half word to support the change, because Albanians have voted for change since 2011", said the presidential candidate, Arben Taravari.

Bujar Osmani, candidate of the European Front coalition, calls for maintaining inter-ethnic harmony in the country and avoiding malicious influences that would move the country away from the pro-European strategic orientation:

"It is a request for 61 deputies to exclude us, the Turks, the Roma and the Bosniaks from decision-making. With the decision to strengthen the European Front, you will erect a wall to those who want to isolate us from the world in conditions when the world is in its most difficult period: an escalation in the Middle East; with the war in Ukraine; with the boiling going on in the Balkans, the least we need in this multi-ethnic state is strategic ambiguity; it is isolation from world trends", said Mr. Osmani.

Gordana Siljanovska and her party VMRO-DPMNE accuse the Social Democratic League and the Democratic Union for Integration of corruption or even concessions that, according to them, were made to the Albanian party to the detriment of state interests:

"Macedonia does not dare to be a binational state because this leads to Bosniakization and the Cyprus model. Macedonia must be a state of equal citizens and a multicultural society; but not a binational state", she says, alluding to the Albanians.

Stevo Pendarovski, who is running for a second term, accuses VMRO-DPMNE of presenting itself differently to the local public and differently to Western diplomats:

"Whenever Hristijan Mickovski talks to foreign ambassadors, he emphasizes that his priority is the inclusion of the Bulgarian minority in the constitution, while in front of his party officials and his supporters he says the opposite." Mr. Pendarvoski says there are many reasons not to trust Mr. Mickovski and his staff.

Maksim Dimitrievski of the party called "Znam", Stevçe Jakimovski of the "Citizen Option for Macedonia" and Biljana Vankovska of the nationalist party "E Majta" are also in the race. The two contestants with the most votes from the April 24 elections will go to the May 8 runoff when the parliamentary elections are also held. The votes of the Albanian electorate usually have an impact on the runoff to determine the winner, but this requires a call from the Albanian political parties, which have not yet expressed how they will act./VOA


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