The emotional reactions after the dramatic election night are slowly calming down, the night that brought the most uncertain race and the closest result among the leading candidates from probably all previous elections (including general and local).
The final result announced by the State Election Commission is 4,489 votes more for Stevo Pendarovski, or 0.6% difference, is surprisingly close, although most of the polls published before the elections predicted uncertainty and a small lead of SDSM’s candidate (from 2, over 2 , 6, up to a maximum of 3.7 percentage points). In the MCIC report from the first poll conducted by the M-Prospect Agency, published on March 25 (including TV Telma), I wrote: “Stevo Pendarovski, the SDSM and DUI candidate, is in a good position (25, 0 percent) ahead of Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, a candidate of VMRO-DPMNE (22.4 percent), ie the difference is 2.6 percentage points, which is within the statistical error, so it can be said that it is a smooth race with equal opportunity to win elections”.
Many analyzes have already been made, and they have written even more comments on the outcome of the first round of elections. In the camp of the SDSM candidate who leads the elections, a sense of defeat still dominates, mainly due to the loss of a huge number of votes from the last local and general elections, and almost half of the votes in favor of the referendum. Party analyzes talk about the need for “sweep” and cleansing, but the prime minister announces them after the second round of presidential elections.
Reporters from the Research Reporting Laboratory (RRL), along with many other reporters, pointed to several cases of corruption, nepotism and incompetence, which were supposed to be solved long time ago, when they arose, in order to prevent or avoid the punishment of voters on Sunday’s elections.
The factor of the Prespa Agreement and the constitutional changes are often mentioned. And it is concluded that this is the “high price” that the ruling coalition now pays. But most commentators, mainly supporters of the agreement, find it too easy to conclude that this was not the most important element of SDSM-DUI’s low score, and even that this result “confirmed” the agreement. Yes, I agree that it is probably already over or a done deal, and that – we should have reached some agreement with Greece and open the Euro-Atlantic perspective that is wanted by the vast majority of citizens. But it seems to me that this result also tells me something else: that the reached agreement was not good enough or dignified (degrading, if I may say so) that citizens have now punished the unfulfilled promises of the 2016 elections on this topic (the constitution will not change, and in some pre-election statements – neither will the name), and especially that the referendum outcome is not respected and an attempt is not made (as, for example, is still being done in the UK for Brexit) – to reach a better agreement, which will be acceptable to the majority of citizens.
So, the outcome of the elections can be interpreted as the price for reaching the contract being too high, and when it is so – those you reached the agreement are the ones that need to pay it, including the possible defeat in these elections (and possibly the next general elections). But this shouldn’t be a problem, didn’t they say that they are ready to pay that price, and now that “the message from the citizens” has been heard, and that it is understood. However, it does not seem like it is… and instead of showing humility and recognition that it could and should have been better, they continue with the same rhetoric, and with even greater arrogance. One should not be surprised if Pendarovski and SDSM indeed lose the elections on May 5th.
In the other camp, although defeated, there was a winning atmosphere, as well as the atmosphere at the Hilton Hotel at the government’s election headquarters, as very vividly described by reporters from the news portal Prizma. They were celebrating the dead heat between the opponents, who at times was leading, but eventually ended with a small defeat. The question is whether there was room for such celebration. The result is the lowest for the party since the 2006 general elections (then won around 303 thousand votes… and won the elections, as a matter of fact) and since the presidential elections in 2004. Also, the result is lower than the last local elections (about 335 thousand for advisors lists) that were experienced as a complete debacle, with only five municipalities won. But, as they say, the perception is more important in politics – and it is that VMRO-DPMNE has done much better than the expectations (based on the reality that it lost much less than SDSM lost in count of votes). Additionally, the “psychological” limit of 300,000 votes has been exceeded, which in some ways has confirmed confidence in the new leadership, which seems to complete its consolidation. It will surely give the opposition party motivation and strength for the second round, to try to achieve a real victory, although Stevo Pendarovski is still the favorite for winning first place on May 5th.
What is important for the second round is the question of whether the 40% turnout will be reached, or will more than 723,253 citizens go to the polls and vote? In the first round, the threshold was slightly exceeded (41.8% voted), the lowest turnout when there was no active boycott of one of the political party. Besides the message (or the slap in the face) for the parties (and all of them) that this turnout gave – that radical changes in the behavior of the parties, their practice of political action, and especially the way of governance (when in power) are required, the low percentage only slightly above the required threshold, spread concerns whether in would be reached in the second round. Especially because of the low turnout among the ethnic Albanians, and even those who came out and gave almost 80,000 votes (4.4% of the total number of voters) to candidate Blerim Reka, one still cannot expect that they would come out to vote in the second round of elections.
I too would be worried if the result of the two candidates who will compete in the second round – Pendarovski and Siljanovska-Davkova, was not so close after the first round. The competitiveness of the candidates (reflected in the result), at least in my opinion, will contribute to a much more massive response in the second round, especially among the supporters of the two parties (if nothing else, as the old saying goes – not let the other one win), which would remove the problem of reaching turnout, even if there is a lower turnout among the ethnic Albanian population (although I also think that DUI will try to demonstrate that it can win more than 80,000 votes in the regions where Reka won that many votes in the first round).
Competition, because of which we abandoned Socialism 30 years ago and was presented to us as something good, which inevitably leads to better solutions and progress, should be demonstrated on May 5th. And I believe that it will be. The campaign for the second round will be even more dynamic and with greater engagement of the overall party machineries, I hope even more innovative and interesting, and even without it, I believe that with the result itself, many supporters of SDSM who punished their party in the first round for all of the above mentioned omissions, as well as many supporters of VMRO-DPMNE, who thought that they should continue with the boycott (as in the name referendum) or had doubts over the new leadership, will go out and vote in support of their “candidate” this time. And many undecided citizens think that they will be encouraged to go to the polls, precisely because of the uncertainty of the outcome and the belief that their vote can be decisive.
As a fan of sports, especially football, I felt the excitement of the uncertain outcome this month, as well as the benefits of a good competition and the competitive football clubs. I believe that most of you also didn’t stay indifferent to the lavish talent of the “kids” of the Ajax football club who “dismantled” the favored “Goliath” Juventus, as well as the super-turmoil, adrenaline and mix of all possible emotions in the 90th minutes (especially the last two minutes) of the match between Manchester City and Tottenham in the Champions League.
The evening of April 21 was also quite exciting, as the results were constantly changing and the lead of one was melting, so at one time there was a turn in the lead, and so to the end. This is the way I expect it to be in the second round, and we can enjoy the evening on May 5 in the match, and until then in the conviction of the candidates to get our vote.
And it is not so important which one will end up with more votes, both of them have shown that they are very good candidates and they can do a great job, it is important that the competition is fair and, if possible, interesting up to the very end, and in the end, both should congratulate each other and the one with less votes to wish the other a successful presidential term. We don’t have to worry if we still don’t reach the needed turnout – I believe that Talat Xhaferi will do an excellen job as acting President until a new one is elected in the possible repeated elections in September. Let’s have a peaceful time during the upcoming holidays and enjoy what the candidates’ competitiveness will bring to us in the remaining part of the campaign and the Election Day, as football fans around the world enjoy these days in the drama of the “dead heat” between Manchester City and Liverpool for the first place in the English Premier League.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik