The first round of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia’s presidential and local elections has passed off peacefully, and while its has not produced a winner, politics professor Gjorge Ivanov of the right appears the favourite to win the second round in two week’s time.
It is the 49 year-old’s first attempt to enter politics after his surprise candidacy, and he has pledged to cooperate closely with the government and bring Macedonia closer to the EU and NATO. 1.8 million voters went to the polls, watched over by 500 international and 7000 local observers following violence in elections last year, the worst for seven years. In the runoff he is likely to face a challenge from second-placed Ljubomir Frckovski of the main opposition SDSM social democrat party. On the streets of the capital the result seemed to matter less than the atmosphere in which the vote was conducted. Macedonians know their little country still has much to prove in the eyes of the world. “Elections went smoothly, they were fair and democratic and regular. We should be proud. We will see what happens in the second round,” said one man. “I expect Macedonia will join NATO and the EU, and the economic situation will be resolved in the best way,” was another’s immediate reaction. Ivanov, standing for the party in power, polled nearly twice the votes of his nearest rival, but less than 40 percent of the total.