U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Russia on Monday of attempting to influence the outcome of a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country’s name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union. Speaking after talks in Skopje with Macedonia’s leaders, Mattis also said the United States was looking to expand cybersecurity cooperation with the small Balkan country. Macedonians will vote on Sept. 30 on a deal reached in June with neighboring Greece that would change the country’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Athens insisted on the change in return for lifting its opposition to Skopje joining NATO and the EU.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Macedonia.
The prime ministers of Greece and Macedonia faced political storms at home Thursday, two days after reaching a historic deal to settle a decades-old dispute over Macedonia’s name. Greece’s Alexis Tsipras faces a vote of no-confidence in his government by Saturday afternoon, while Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev is contending with the refusal of the country’s president to sign off on the deal if it’s approved by parliament. Zaev and Tsipras have agreed that the former Yugoslav republic should be renamed North Macedonia, ending a disagreement that had prevented it from joining international institutions such as NATO and had poisoned bilateral relations since the early 1990s.
Macedonia’s main opposition leader cried foul over local election results after gains for the ruling party in a second round of polls on Sunday, and demanded a snap parliamentary vote. The ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) won in 40 municipalities out of a total 85 in the first round two weeks ago, including in the capital Skopje. Nineteen areas which were undecided on Oct. 16 voted again on Sunday, and the SDSM declared victory in 10. Final results were expected after midnight. Following the second round, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE’s leader Nikola Gruevski dismissed the results. “Because of the election violence, raping of democracy … threats, pressure, massive bribes, the VMRO-DPMNE does not recognize these elections and will never consider them fair and democratic,” Gruevski told reporters.
Macedonia’s ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) have won a sweeping victory in the first round of local elections and delivered a severe blow to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party that ruled much of the country for more than a decade. Macedonia’s State Electoral Commission late on October 16 reported final results that show the SDSM won outright 37 out of 81 municipalities and has a significant lead in another 13, while the VMRO-DPMNE lost control of 56 municipalities and won in only three rural areas in polls held on October 15. In the biggest prize, the SDSM appears close to wresting control of the capital, Skopje, from the VMRO-DPMNE, headed by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Runoff elections are scheduled for October 29.
Early returns from municipal elections being watched as a test of Macedonia’s new left-wing administration indicated Sunday night that voters are backing the government. Results from 30 percent out of the country’s 3,480 polling stations showed the Social Democrat-led led coalition of Prime minister Zoran Zaev leading in 44 of Macedonia’s 81 municipalities, including the capital of Skopje. Candidates from the conservative VMRO-DPMNE led in 13. In the last local elections in 2013, the conservatives won 56 of 81 municipalities, while the Social Democrats won four. “This is a strong punishment for VMRO-DPMNE,” political analyst Gjorgi Spasov said on local TV channel 24. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addressed supporters in front of the government building early Monday, claiming victory and congratulating people for contributing to a “free and fair” vote.
About 2,000 protesters gathered in Skopje on April 28 and demanded new elections one day after a band of protesters stormed Macedonia’s parliament and beat up leaders of an emerging new governing coalition. The latest protests, which were peaceful, were staged outside the mission of the European Union, which had expressed support for the new governing coalition formed by Macedonia’s Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties. The organizers of the latest rally insisted they have no political affiliation, and said their activism is aimed at preventing the country from sliding deeper into crisis. They marched under the banner “For a joint Macedonia.”
Macedonia: U.S. diplomats backing Balkan republics against suspected Russia meddling | Los Angeles Times
Even as President Trump seeks to improve relations with Russia, the State Department is countering overtures by Moscow in one of its former satellite regions, the Balkans. State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday called for Macedonia, one of the former republics of the now-defunct Yugoslavia, to urgently put together a government. This comes after the former prime minister of neighboring Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, accused Russia of meddling in the region and attempting to provoke a coup against Montenegro’s pro-Western government last fall. Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina have expressed strong interest in joining the European Union and possibly the NATO military alliance, but Russia has opposed those moves.
Macedonia’s conservatives, led by former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, secured victory on Sunday in a bitterly contested national election after a poll rerun in a single station did not give the leftist opposition enough votes to overtake their rivals. The rerun, in the northwestern village of Tearce, 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital of Skopje, gave the opposition, led by the Social Democrats, 245 votes to 149 for the conservatives, led by Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party. There were 402 people voting out of 714 registered. The rerun had been ordered following complaints about voting irregularities from the opposition Social Democrats. The result has not been officially announced but has been posted on the website of Macedonia’s Election Commission.
On Sunday, Macedonia is set to re-run the December 11 general election in a single polling station – which could change the overall election result by potentially evening out the number of seats won by the ruling and opposition parties. Macedonia’s Administrative Court on Tuesday accepted one electoral complaint filed by the opposition Social Democratic Union, SDSM as a result of which the December 11 general election will be re-run in a single polling station, number 2011, in the north western municipality of Tearce. This single re-run could alter the number of seats won in parliament by the two main parties on December 11 from 51-49 in favour of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party to 50-50 with the SDSM.
As Macedonia’s state election commssion, DIK, convened on Thursday evening in Skopje to decide opposition complaints about the general election, thousands of supporters of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party arrived by bus from smaller towns on a mission to “protect” its election victory. VMRO DPMPE politicians and prominent supporters heated up the crowd, accusing the main opposition party of plotting “treason” to Macedonia. “We won’t allow the country to be run by people who are prepared to commit the greatest treason against Macedonia,” VMRO DPMNE MP Ilija Dimovski told the protesters. “The DIK members should know that they carry the greatest responsibility and will decide whether this country will be normal and prosperous,” he added. “They should know that these people have no more strength to tolerate things. We respect democracy and the voice of the people. There is no turning back,” Dimovski continued.