One year on from the controversial name change, North Macedonia is preparing for the first elections of a new era. Three candidates are running for the presidency, it’s an election that could determine the future of the EU in the Balkans.
Perhaps inevitably, the Prespa Agreement with Greece – the accords which saw the Republic of Macedonia become North Macedonia - is proving the focal point of the election.
Leading the pack is Stevo Pendarovski, candidate of the governing SDSM coalition, a former adviser on national security in the Presidential Cabinet. He has adopted the campaign slogan of Together Forward, and is attempting to mobilise support across the weaving ethnic divides of North Macedonia. Pendarovski believes that his election of a supporter of the Prespa Agreement like himself will resonate across the Balkans region.
Yet his pro-European stance is being counter by Gordana Siljanovska Davkova the candidate from the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE. The University Professor is playing to a significant crowd of Macedonians who were angered by the Prespa Agreement, adopting the slogan Justice for Macedonia. She has called for the Prespa Agreement to to be changed, labelling it “degrading”.
The race’s outsider is Blerim Reka, a former Ambassador of North Macedonia to the EU. Straddling the middle ground, Reka is a supporter of the Prespa agreement, but is also fiercely critical of the incumbent SDSM’s failure to carry out reforms that will be essential for any accession to the EU.