Macedonians began voting for a new assembly and president Sunday in a poll expected to cement the conservatives’ grip on power, despite a shaky economy and a stalemate in Skopje’s bid to join the EU. The legislative vote is being held a year ahead of schedule after the ruling VMRO-DPMNE failed to agree with its ethnic Albanian coalition partner, the DUI, on a joint presidential candidate. The run-off for a largely ceremonial post will be held between incumbent Gjorge Ivanov of the VMRO-DPMNE and his Social Democrat rival Stevo Pendarovski. Polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and will close twelve hours later. More than 1.7 million voters will elect a new 123-seat parliament chosing between 14 parties and coalitions. But opinion polls have given a strong lead to both Ivanov and the VMRO-DPMNE. The ruling party is credited with 28 percent of the vote against 15 percent for the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM).
VMRO-DPMNE hopes to increase its tally in parliament to 62 seats out of 123 and enable its leader Nikola Gruevski to secure a third term as prime minister. “We need majority so nobody can blackmail us and we can keep up with a programme… that would lead Macedonia into the EU and NATO,” Gruevski said at the final rally Friday.
In the outgoing assembly, Gruevski’s party had just 55 seats, which forced them into a coalition with several minor parties to ensure majority backing in parliament. “The conservatives estimate that the opposition has neither the means nor the strength to win at this moment and want to ensure four additional years in power,” said analyst Aleksandar Damovski.
Full Article: Macedonia votes in snap polls, presidential run-off.