North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession

North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession
North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession/Reuters
North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession
North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession/Reuters

North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession

North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession

North Macedonia holds crucial elections for EU accession

SKOPJE, May 8 (Reuters) – Polls opened in North Macedonia on Wednesday in parliamentary and presidential elections in which the rightist opposition is expected to gain ground against a ruling party that has failed to progress talks to join the EU and stamp out corruption.

No polls have been published ahead of the vote, but a stronger-than-expected showing from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party in the first round of presidential elections last month suggest that voters are frustrated with the ruling Social Democrats.

In a school in the predominantly Albanian western town of Tetovo, where elections-related incidents happened in the past, six police officers were seen guarding the entrance to the polling station.

Some of those who voted said they wanted a government capable of bringing in investments and rooting out corruption.

“I want to see more foreign help in controlling state institutions, because if you leave locals to do it, they will just pass corruption from one to another,” said Sem Beqiri, 27, a ethnic Albanian and a retail worker.

Wednesday’s vote includes a run-off for the more ceremonial presidency, and for parliamentary seats. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and will close at 7 p.m.(1700 GMT).

The state election commission is expected to start announcing results from 3,360 polling stations later on Wednesday.

In 2001 NATO pulled North Macedonia back from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency and promised faster integration into the EU and NATO. Albanians account for about a quarter of country’s population of 1.83 million.

North Macedonia joined NATO in 2020 but it has made little progress with the EU integrations, in part because of opposition from EU members Greece and Bulgaria.

“I am expecting changes for the better, because so far it was rock-bottom … I am (dissatisfied) with everything. Everything is disastrous, corruption in the first place, everything related with judiciary, even some African countries are better,” said Igor Lazarev, 45, an administrative clerk after voting in a communist-era school in central Skopje.

A 2017 agreement to change the country’s name from Macedonia to North Macedonia ended the dispute with Greece, but Bulgaria lodged a veto in 2020, demanding constitutional changes over minority, history and language issues, which many North Macedonians say attacks their national identity.

The Ljubljana-based International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) said that a VMRO-DPMNE victory could complicate further EU talks, given their opposition to the agreements with Greece and Bulgaria.

“The cancellation of already signed and ratified international agreements and obligations and (their) renegotiation would mean the loss of another 20 or 30 years … and giving up the country’s Euro-Atlantic path,” IFIMES said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by VoM News staff and is published from syndicated feed)

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