What will the second round bring?

Gjorgji Spasov

Before the first round of the presidential elections, many feared two things.

The first was incidents or irregularities at any polling station that the opposition would use to accuse the elections of not being free and fair and to call, as it did during the name referendum, for a public or secret boycott in the second round so that the election of a new president fails.

Holding free and fair elections organized by the current government, after everything we listened to concerning the elections organized by Gruevski’s government, it seemed even more important for receiving a recommendation to start accession talks with the EU, than who would win them. Macedonia succeeded in that, as well.

Something that is considered normal in all democratic countries, and was a mission impossible for an entire decade during Gruevski and Mickoski, it has become normal again. With that, Macedonia passed another exam.

The fear among the citizens, employees and the unemployed has been won that nothing will happen to them if they freely vote for whomever they want, or decide not to go to the polls. And that means increasing of freedom, but also increasing the power of the citizens to choose and change their government based on their will.

The second thing that was feared was the possibility that the presidential candidate of the ruling parties, Stevo Pendarovski, could lead in the first round with fifty thousand votes more than the opposition candidate, thus the chances for VMRO-DPMNE’s presidential candidate of winning in the second round would be reduced to minimum.

Such a lead, in the conditions when it was clear that the opposition candidate had no space to increase the number of votes in the second round, would also be an occasion for some public or quiet boycott in order for the elections to fail and create some kind of political crisis.

Luckily for the candidate of the ruling coalition, Blerim Reka was introduced to the elections, who won about 80,000 votes, and the race between the candidates of the ruling coalition and the Macedonian part of the opposition became even more interesting.

It is now quite certain that the Macedonian part of the opposition has no reason to boycott the second round of the presidential elections, because it hopes that there is still a chance for its candidate to win, and thus to fulfill some of the promises for abolition of the convicts on April 27th, blocking the implementation of the Prespa Agreement, blocking the law on the use of the Albanian language, freeing Gruevski from responsibility and his return to the country, as well as initiating  snap general elections.

However, the opposition candidate will not win this elections, and after the elections it will be difficult for them for any reason to claim that Pendarovski’s election as president is suspicious or illegitimate and reject to recognize him as head of state. This created conditions for Macedonia, after a long time, for the first time to receive a president of the state with undisputed legitimacy, which all political parties in the country will recognize as head of state. And that will be another achievement in the democratic development of the country achieved under the current government.

Certainly, all of the democratic behavior of the current government coalition will be in vain, especially for SDSM, if it allows its presidential candidate to lose these elections, if it leaves an impression on the opposition that it already has a majority in order to change the country’s government.

Considering Pendarovski’s and Siljanovska-Davkova’s diametrically contradictory positions regarding the Prespa Agreement, the Law on Languages, the constitutional revision and amnesty, these elections for both political campaigns were to some extent a kind of second referendum on the name.

The result of the first round of elections unmasked the favorite lie of the Macedonian part of the opposition that over one million and two hundred thousand voters out of the voters who did not come out to vote during the referendum on September 30th last year are against the Prespa Agreement and against the change of the country’s name, and that those 600 thousand voters who supported that referendum do not express the will of the majority of people in North Macedonia.

In these elections, it turned out that the candidate of the Macedonian opposition, Siljanovska-Davkova, who claimed in the campaign that the Prespa Agreement was detrimental and capitulating for Macedonia, but she would still respect it, and that she was saying that she would not utter the name Republic of North Macedonia and if elected, she will act the same way as current President Ivanov, received barely 300 thousand votes, or only 17 percent of the registered one million and eight thousand citizens in the Voters List. And this is definitely the message that the citizens sent to these opposition parties of the Macedonian bloc that are opposed to changes. It reads: don’t talk in the name of the people, neither all Macedonians here nor those abroad, because you have the support of only 17% of the voters registered in the Voters List.

But citizens also sent a strong message to the parties in the government coalition. That government coalition in cooperation with the opposition parties of the Albanians, just six and a half months ago, on September 30th, got the support of more than 600 thousand citizens in the referendum on the Prespa Agreement and NATO membership.

All those 600 thousand citizens were probably aware that in order to achieve their expressed political will in that referendum, it was necessary to provide a two-thirds majority with the Parliament, even with pardons for some of the perpetrators of the violence on 27 April, in order to change the Constitution and to make a series of other painful compromises to achieve the desired goal. Even before the first round of these presidential elections, it was clear that electing a president that supports the Prespa Agreement, the Law on Languages ​​and which will not obstruct the Government in implementing this important strategic goal for the country is actually the second important step for respecting their political will expressed in the name referendum.

However, the two presidential candidates (Pendarovski and Reka) who supported those goals happened to win only about 400 thousand votes combined.

About 200 thousand citizens, or each third person who voted in favor of the referendum, chose not to vote this time, probably dissatisfied with the functioning of the Government in other areas of its competence.

Surely many of them believe that the Government has not met all their expectations, some of them are completely disappointed, and some may have believed in the propaganda of the opposition that the new government introduced crime, violence and injustice, and that, in contrast to the change of Gruevski shows incompetence and inability.

In such conditions, although it is not a question of either general or local elections, they have decided, by not coming out to vote in these elections, to send a message to the government that no one is forever in that position, and that if things don’t start changing soon internally, this government will be changed.

But in this behavior there is one big illogicality, even a paradox.

Gjorge Ivanov’s change from the presidential post, and his replacement with a candidate who will not continue with his anti-European and discriminatory policy in the name of some kind of “Justice for Macedonia”, was the last obstacle to the fulfillment of the political will of those 600,000 citizens who voted in favor of the referendum.

By boycotting the presidential candidate from the ruling coalition, those 200 thousand citizens are not only harming SDSM and DUI, but they are actually threatening the realization of their own political will expressed in the referendum. In other words, it is the political behavior of people who by unconsciously attempting to punish the authorities, punish themselves and condemn the country of possible staying out of integration processes, which will definitely threaten its internal stability even more. It’s like having voted for Brexit before the country becomes an EU member state, for which we all hope. And that’s why we could only hope that there will be little awareness in the second round. Perhaps the “boycotters” did not expect this result, so they now have a second chance to correct their mistakes.

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik