Monday October 21, 2019
Home Lead Story Voters in Nor...

Voters in North Macedonia Gear Up For Presidential Elections

The campaign itself has been rather low-key by Macedonian standards, with virtually none of the violence, dirty tricks, and sharp nationalist rhetoric that has marked previous votes.

0
//
Macedonia
And then there were two: North Macedonian presidential runoff candidates Stevo Pendarovski (left) and Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova. RFERL

Voters in North Macedonia will choose a new president on May 5 in a runoff vote that will be watched as closely for turnout as it will be for either candidate.

Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova face off in the balloting after a virtual draw — 42.8 percent to 42.2 percent respectively — in the first round on April 21.

That close outcome has put a spotlight on the Balkan nation’s ethnic Albanian minority, who strongly supported Blerim Reka in the first round, giving him 10.6 percent of the vote.

With Reka out of the runoff race, a lot will depend on whether his supporters even decide to cast ballots, and if so, for whom.

If fewer than 40 percent of the country’s 1.8 million eligible voters show up for the runoff, the election automatically becomes invalid.

democracy
Outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov was constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive five-year term. Pixabay

About one quarter of the population is ethnic Albanian, and overall turnout in the first round was just 41.8 percent.

“I am calling on all of our citizens to go to the polls and vote by your own choice, but vote for the future of our country and of our children,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev urged Macedonians in a video address.

Low-Key Campaign

The campaign itself has been rather low-key by Macedonian standards, with virtually none of the violence, dirty tricks, and sharp nationalist rhetoric that has marked previous votes.

While the president has a largely ceremonial role, the position does have some powers to veto legislation and Zaev has warned that the outcome of the runoff could trigger early parliamentary elections.

The race itself between the two academics has been dominated by debate on issues such as integration into Western structures and a struggling economy, plagued by stubbornly high unemployment at more than 20 percent.

Pendarovski, a 55-year-old former political-science professor, has strongly supported the so-called Prespa deal signed with Greece last year to change the country’s name, while Siljanovska-Davkova, the country’s first female candidate and a university professor, has been critical of it, though the opposition has said it will not cancel the accord.

The signing of the historic agreement with Greece changed the country’s name to North Macedonia and ended a decades-long dispute that had blocked the Balkan state’s path to NATO and the historic agreement.

Pro-Western Pendarovski is supported by the ruling Social Democrats. Siljanovska-Davkova, 63, ran as an independent but is now backed by the main conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party.

Macedonia's parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi, might have to assume the president's duties if turnout is too low. (file photo)
Macedonia’s parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi, might have to assume the president’s duties if turnout is too low. RFERL
 

If turnout fails to reach the minimum requirement, constitutional experts say a completely new vote must be called within 40 days.

During the interim period, the head of the National Assembly, Talat Xhaferi, would assume the function of president.

Outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov was constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive five-year term.

Once a part of Yugoslavia, North Macedonia left Belgrade’s umbrella when it seceded peacefully in 1991.

Also Read: WhatsApp Pay in India A Tough Call For Digital Payments Leader in The Country

But it veered close to civil war in 2001 when ethnic Albanians launched an armed insurgency seeking greater autonomy, and subsequent elections have been stormy.

Polling stations open at 7 a.m. local time and will remain open until 7 p.m. (RFERL)

Next Story

US President Donald Trump Again Slams Google for Manipulating 2016 Election

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints

0
US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. VOA

US President Donald Trump has once again lashed out at Google for manipulating millions of votes in the 2016 presidential elections in favour of then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought,” Trump tweeted late Monday.

However, the report Trump mentioned in his tweet was published in 2017 that described there was a bias in Google and other search engines during the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Trump’s tweet citing an old research paper also tagged conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch with his tweet, “perhaps asking them to investigate. It’s also unclear who he thinks should sue the company”, reports TechCrunch.

In a statement, Google said: “This researcher’s inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in 2016. As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Clinton also responded to Trump: “The debunked study you’re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context that’s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted.”

google, online tracking
A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

The paper was published by Robert Epstein, a psychology researcher who works for the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

The CNBC reported that “Trump’s tweet appears to refer to documents leaked to conservative group Project Veritas, but the documents do not appear to contain any outright allegation of vote manipulation or attempts to bias the election”.

Earlier this month, Trump criticized Google CEO Sundar Pichai for alleged ties to election tampering and China’s military.

Also Read: Actress Alia Bhatt to Raise Funds for Animals via Baking

“@sundarpichai of Google was in the Oval Office working very hard to explain how much he liked me, what a great job the Administration is doing, that Google was not involved with China’s military, that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election,” he had tweeted.

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints. (IANS)