North Macedonia's runoff elections of October 31 were seen as a test for the ruling social democrats after the centre-right opposition won more municipalities in the first round of voting two weeks ago. Faced with the negative outcome, SDSM President and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has resigned from both positions
In the local elections in North Macedonia, opposition party VMRO DPMNE won 42 municipalities across the country – half the total number – including capital Skopje, which went to independent candidate Danela Arsovska, supported by VMRO DPMNE.
SDSM, DUI, Besa, LDP, DOM, and DPA – the parties that make up the current government coalition – ran on their own in the local elections. SDSM won 16 mayor seats, DUI – 13, and Besa – 2, while DPA and the LDP-DOM coalition one each, like the Grom opposition party. Three more independent candidates have become mayors.
These results completely turned the political map of Macedonia, as SDSM had been ruling so far in 57 municiaplities, and VMRO-DPMNE in only five.
DUI lost Tetovo, which is regarded as Albanians' largest political and social centre in North Macedonia. Teuta Arifi, who was running for a third term, lost to Bilal Kasami of the Besa Movement party. Besa also maintained its only municipality so far, Zelino.
Arben Taravari from the Alliance for Albanians and Alternative, current mayor of Gostivar, won a new four-year term, and this coalition also won in Vrapciste, but lost in Bogovinje.
Danela Arsovska will be the first woman to lead the capital since North Macedonia's independence in 1991. She got over 118,000 votes against incumbent Shilegov from SDSM who got 90,000.
“Now we have a chance from the first day to start working with dedication, to demand responsibility for what has not been done. To transform Skopje into a clean, green, beautiful, modern city, a city of happy people", Danela said in her first address to the public.
In Kumanovo, where the fiercest battle was fought after Skopje, Maksim Dimitrievski won its first race as an independent candidate after being expelled from SDSM. In the second round, VMRO-DPMNE also stood behind him. He defeated Oliver Ilievski from SDSM by almost 6,000 votes.
There was a big gap in Tetovo as well, although Teuta Arifi only led in the first round by several hundred votes. Bilal Kasami obtained 21,591 votes against Teuta Arifi's 16,542. It is believed that Kasami received a large number of votes from all parties except DUI.
Faced with the negative results, SDSM President and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has resigned from both positions. However, he said there should be no early parliamentary elections.
"I take responsibility for myself. I resign from Prime Minister and President of SDSM. Congratulations to all progressive citizens who fought hard for an integrated North Macedonia. I remain of the opinion that there should be no early parliamentary elections. The next 2.5 years of work and economic success will benefit the entire nation and the state", said Zaev, who also remarked that he was proud of the achievements so far.
“I am proud that together we brought the country into NATO. Last year we decided to start negotiations with the EU and I believe we have a chance to start negotiations in a few months. We have united our multi-ethnic people and strengthened the economy despite the prevailing pandemic. We conducted a successful census, built a historic friendship with all five of our neighbours with agreed strategic partnerships”, stated Zaev during the press conference.
Zaev also posited that the opposition received great financial support from outside the country for these elections.
“It is my duty to comment that in these elections a lot of money was visible on the ground with the opposition, coming predominantly from abroad, and given for political and economic reasons, and part of the big money was received from domestic businessmen, primarily bosses of construction companies, for future personal financial interests and plans. I regret that all this money is a significant reason for these results", said Zaev.
Zaev expressed disappointment that the majority of the people had chosen, in his words, alliances between the victims and the perpetrators since the intrusion in Parliament of April 27, 2017.
“Victims of violence joined forces with the thugs from VMRO-DPMNE for power and money. I wanted to mention this for people not to forget. It is not difficult at all to leave politics, it is difficult to think about the reality of the decision of our people. I am unequivocally convinced that together with the progressive citizens I have brought freedom and democracy, and when there is freedom and democracy there should be taking responsibility", said Zaev.
Leader of VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski celebrated a convincing victory in the local elections and said that the changes for a better North Macedonia are beginning.
Levica, one of the newest parties on the political scene, won a significant number of councilors in the municipal councils and, together with VMRO DPMNE, participated in the creation of a majority.
According to Article 93 of the Macedonian Constitution, "...the resignation of the Prime Minister, his death or permanent incapacity to perform the function, entails the resignation of the Government... A government that has received a vote of no confidence, that has resigned, or that has its mandate terminated due to the dissolution of the Assembly, remains in office until the election of a new government".
Formally and legally, now the president of the country has the opportunity to entrust the majority parties with the composition of the government. Then, the new prime minister-designate, within 20 days, should submit a programme and propose the composition of the government for the Parliament's approval.
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