Government-backed candidate wins North Macedonia presidential vote

Stevo Pendarovski plans to bring the country into NATO under its new name

Voters in North Macedonia on Sunday elected government-backed candidate Stevo Pendarovski to become the country’s next president, news wires reported.  The a joint candidate of the governing Social Democrats and 30 smaller parties received about 52% of the vote, while his opponent Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, backed by the opposition, got about 45%.

The two finished neck-and-neck in the first round of voting two weeks ago. The victory puts more wind into the sails of the ruling coalition, which expects to get a date to start EU accession talks in June and become the 30th Nato member state next year. “The victory of this concept brings a future for the republic of North Macedonia and it’s our ticket to Europe,” Pendarovski told reporters after the election results were announced.

“As of today no one can stand in the way of progress. We showed we are ready for Europe,“ PM Zoran Zaev said congratulating Pendarovski.  “North Macedonia can count on the EU’s continued support for its EU accession perspective, thus responding to the strong European aspirations of its people,” Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn tweeted.

The North Macedonia’s president holds a largely ceremonial post but is the supreme commander of the armed forces and also signs off on parliamentary legislation. The refusal of outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov to sign some bills backed by parliament has delayed the implementation of key laws. But Ivanov had no authority to block the constitutional amendments passed earlier this year by a two-thirds majority of parliament that enabled the name change to North Macedonia.

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