Sunday, April 05, 2009

Macedonia presidential election: Conservative George Ivanov wins

Macedonian conservative candidate George Ivanov has scored a landslide victory in a presidential election runoff seen as a key test of the Balkan country's EU and NATO credentials.

Speaking at the national television, Mr Ivanov said that his "three crucial priorities" would be Macedonia's integration in the European Union and NATO, as well as the solution of the 18-year name dispute with Greece.

Mr Ivanov won 63.41 per cent of the vote compared with 36.56 per cent for Ljubomir Frckoski of the main opposition Social Democratic Union party, according to electoral commission data based on more than 96 per cent of polling stations.

The figures, expected to be confirmed later in the week, put turnout at 42.86 per cent, scraping over a threshold of 40 per cent and averting the need for the vote to be held again within six months.

A low turnout of voters for the presidential poll was apparently evident in ethnic Albanian populated areas. Ethnic Albanians make up one quarter of Macedonia’s population.

Conceding defeat, Mr Frckoski praised voters and party supporters for keeping the election free of the violence that marred parliamentary elections last year.

"We had a calm and peaceful election. I use this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Ivanov. God save Macedonia," he told party supporters.

The same sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, whose VMRO-DPMNE party had earlier claimed the lead for Mr Ivanov.

"We had free, fair, democratic and peaceful elections. Today the citizens showed democratic capacities and will for free, democratic elections. This is strongly opening our perspective for Euro-Atlantic integration," he said.

Mr Ivanov, 48, campaigned on bringing prosperity and resolving a long-running dispute with Greece that has damaged the former Yugoslav republic's hopes of joining the EU and NATO military alliance.

A political scientist who once served as a visiting professor in Greece, Mr Ivanov is known for his diligence, but has been criticised in some quarters for his lack of political experience.

The post, with a five-year mandate, is largely ceremonial, but the president is officially the supreme commander of the army, with decision-making authority in foreign policy and the judiciary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Xhevat Ademi, deputy leader of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), criticised on Saturday (April 4th) Macedonia's "lack of willingness" to reach an agreement with Greece in the long-standing name dispute. In an interview with Reuters, Ademi warned that maintaining the same stance in the name row will not only hamper the country's chances to join NATO and the EU but will also increase its isolation. "Macedonia is farther away from NATO than it was a year ago," said Ademi. Greece vetoed Macedonia's NATO entry last April over the name dispute