“They talk about democracy and procedures, and yet they chose their candidate in a hotel, after which they only confirmed his nomination at a party congress. They previously published the public call to which people, who did not have a chance of being elected, have offered their bid,” Professor Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova said after learning that her colleague Stevo Pendarovski is going to be her opponent in the upcoming presidential elections. In his first speech as a candidate for the head of state in only a small segment, Pendarovski said that finally in these past two years, there were good news flowing in after a whole decade of the family’s autocratic regime. He never mentioned his opponent, the emphasis was put on continuing the European integration processes with the conclusion that the citizens have no other choice but to give their support to him.
In fact, Siljanovska – Davkova’s remark was more directed to the democratic capacity in SDSM, than to Pendarovski personally. For the time being, both candidates’ University background leaves the impression that the presidential race will remain without the usual ‘dark’ campaign, attacks and disqualifications on a personal level, but such an image may be apparent, because behind them are parties that shoot with all the artillery the possess, and it is expected that tensions between both candidates will also grow as the two election days are approaching.
Siljanovska-Davkova has a two-week head start, considering that her election at VMRO-DPMNE’s Struga Convention took place on February 16th, while Pendarovski found out that he is the ruling coalition’s consensual presidential candidate just last weekend. Professor Siljanovska – Davkova sustained all initial criticism and insults about her age and physical appearance, but probably in the next days and weeks she would have to continue to explain how she plans to annul or mitigate the Prespa Agreement. The name resolution and the Law on bilingualism are the main processes in which she disagrees with the government, although it is reassuring that it does not matter whether she likes them or not, but above all because they are unconstitutional, however, she has remarks basically for all government policies led by Zoran Zaev.
In a statement for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper, Siljanovska-Davkova explains that she does not promise things that cannot be met even if she wins the elections, but that she promises only what is within the constitutional powers of the head of state.
“Foreign policy, and in particular the representation of the state outside and the signing of international agreements, enters that domain. What I pointed out for months was the illegal procedure through which this agreement was passed, including the referendum process, and precisely on those issues, any international agreement can be challenged in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention. So, I’m talking about a legal procedure before a competent international institution, not a political promise. Otherwise, in the Republic of Macedonia, competent for the constitutionality of this agreement is the Constitutional Court, but this court does not work with legal arguments. What I can promise without fear of disappointing anyone is that I will keep the issue open on every occasion, when it will be possible,” emphasizes Siljanovska-Davkova.
She says that in order to open a procedure for re-examining the legal validity of the Prespa Agreement, synergy between the government and the head of state is necessary, and believes that this will happen during her term.
“In the meantime, I will initiate the creation of an expert group of top authorities in the area of international and constitutional law, which will prepare an analysis of which points the Prespa Agreement and the process of its adoption are in collision with applicable international law. In dialogue with our partners and allies, and especially with our neighbor Greece, we will point out that we are not against good neighborly relations and integration of Macedonia in the Western alliances, but we are doing it in a dignified manner and in accordance with the rule of domestic and international law. In international relations nothing is forever. I don’t promise instant solutions, but a fight for justice for Macedonia throughout my term,” Siljanovska-Davkova concludes in her statement for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper.
In contrast, Pendarovski, who also serves as the country’s coordinator for NATO membership, is a major supporter of the Prespa Agreement, and considers it to be dignified and fully protects the Macedonian identity.
Igor Atanasov, Marketing Communications expert, says that for the team that will work for Pendarovski, it will be a huge communication challenge to acquire a visual and communication package, which will apply to all citizens by age and educational structure, but also to work on displaying a moderate audacity that a presidential candidate needs to possess.
“I am saying this because we have a situation when one of the candidates tries to win the people’s confidence for the second time, a person who has not changed one bit in the past five years and cannot changed so much so that he can get something diametrically opposite, Considering that this is a person who has shared all of his views clearly and loudly, we know them very well, and all we can expect from him is the continuation of what he had said five years ago. I do not think there is a need and it will be worthwhile to go back to something that is already a passageway like the name, NATO… “, noted Atanasov.
On the other hand, he believes, the candidate of VMRO-DPMNE and their coalition faces serious communication challenges, primarily due to the fact that with her existence and functioning, the opposition’s candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova is more a classical theorist, a great speaker, but that there won’t be much of that right-wing rhetoric, sharpness in speech, and her audacity is based on a professional level, which is indisputable.
“This is felt in every performance and address, I am not sure that this is the language in which VMRO-DPMNE wants to address and win over voters. I think there is a conceptual difference between the personality of the candidate and the party’s voting body. Regarding communication and messages, VMRO-DPMNE can be expected to be defocused from the presidential elections and constantly remind about the failings of this current government, and the how bad the citizens live. It is quite clear that the focus is no longer the name, it’s no longer the identity, they are now talking about failure, bad life, autocratic rule, etc. I think the party is aware that nationalist rhetoric can influence the common voter, and win votes based on this rhetoric. This is in many respects is opposite to Siljanovska-Davkova’s desire, to get the votes of all those who are disappointed with the ruling government and the Colorful Revolution, said Marketing Expert Igor Atanasov. This, in my opinion, is like mixing water and oil. This was confirmed when collecting signatures, when Siljanovska-Davkova tried to present herself as a non-party candidate, but the process was publicly supported by VMRO-DPMNE, so there were mixed messages. I consider that VMRO-DPMNE has a much more difficult task to create a consistent communication platform for its candidate against the ruling government’s coalition with its candidate,” says Atanasov.
He noted that special attention must be paid to Professor Blerim Reka, whom he describes as a Skopje-raised person, a career man, a university professor, and our country’s ambassador to Brussels.
“However, we are talking about a highly intelligent and a striking person. I absolutely expect from him to focus on the civilian before the nationalist concept. I expect a lot from him because he is a man who is eloquent, down to earth and absolutely precise in his statements on any ground,” says Igor Atanasov.
The campaign has (not) started
State Election Commission Chairman Oliver Derkovski says that the SEC members have not registered any premature campaign activities by the presidential candidates. The presidential candidates should be confirmed by the SEC by March 21, and by then all the activities of the potential successors of Gjorge Ivanov will be considered party meetings, and not as a start of the election campaign, which officially starts on April 1st.
The deadline for collecting signatures for the presidential candidates ends on March 9th. Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova stopped collecting signatures after 16,000 citizens have signed her petition. From Saturday up to yesterday, the candidacy of Blerim Reka for president was supported by 6,000 citizens, about 3,000 citizens signed for Amdi Bajram, but Bajram announced that he would be withdrawing his list of signatures. Filip Petrovski, Popovski, Josif Mircevski are also collecting signatures from citizens.
Only 400 of the Diaspora citizens registered for voting in the upcoming presidential elections.
The State Election Commission, the State Audit Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the eve of the presidential elections.