North Macedonia name change remains main issue in second-round presidential vote

North Macedonia name change remains main issue in second-round presidential vote

North Macedonia goes back to the polls today for a run-off election between pro-EU and pro-name change Stevo Pendarovski and

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Photo: Reuters

North Macedonia goes back to the polls today for a run-off election between pro-EU and pro-name change Stevo Pendarovski and nationalist, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, who rejects the name-change.

The candidates tied in the first-round of voting on April 21, with each attracting about 42% of the vote. Polling indicates a similarly tight contest today.

However, widespread disillusionment with the name-change has resulted in voter-apathy, with only 41.8% turnout in the first-round. This threatens the constitutional requirement for a 40% turnout to legitimise the vote.

Although the presidency is largely ceremonial, with most executive power concentrated in the pro-name change Social Democrat government, failure to obtain a clear result today would firstly trigger a constitutional crisis caused by a vacant presidency and secondly, a snap parliamentary election, which would replay the divisiveness of the name-change debate.

Even if Siljanovka-Davkova wins—she has vowed to take the matter to the international court in the Hague—her chances of overturning the deal are slim. In a recent debate, she played-down the priority she would place on the issue in office. This reflects the difficulty of opposing the deal as a president with limited executive power and the general popularity of NATO/EU membership—which Athens no longer opposes Skopje’s pathway to—amongst North Macedonians.

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