The right-wing opposition has clearly won the parliamentary and presidential elections in North Macedonia. The right-wing nationalist VMRO-DPMNE received 43.1 percent of the vote and will have 59 mandates in the 120-seat parliament, as the State Election Commission announced after counting almost all votes. The right is thus replacing the social democratic SDSM, which has been in power since 2017. With almost half of the seats in the new parliament, they are in the comfortable position of being able to choose their coalition partner.

With only 15.1 percent of the vote and 19 seats, the Social Democrats suffered a bitter defeat. Compared to the parliamentary election four years ago, they lost well over half of their voters. The Social Democratic Party leader Dimitar Kovacevski congratulated his political opponent on his victory on election night.

VMRO boss Hristijan Mickoski can now hope to become the next head of government of the NATO country, which changed its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia in 2019. Kovacevski was prime minister until the beginning of this year. In accordance with an agreement from 2016, an interim cabinet including the opposition took over government for the last 100 days before the parliamentary election.

Motorcades, horn concerts and fireworks

In the streets of the capital Skopje, opposition supporters celebrated late into the night with car convoys, honking and fireworks. During the election campaign, Mickoski’s camp had taken advantage of the disappointment of large sections of the population with the ruling Social Democrats. Many people complain that state institutions are increasingly failing to fulfil their duties and that poor administration, nepotism and corruption have become rampant. The economic situation is bad, the state coffers are empty, while mass emigration is leading to a dramatic population decline and a loss of qualified workers.

“Macedonia has won! It is a historic victory for the Macedonian people!” VMRO leader Mickoski shouted shortly before midnight in front of celebrating supporters at the party headquarters in Skopje. “The government fell and there is a reason for it: corruption, crime, incompetence, nepotism, a hijacked state, which disappointed the people.”

Confrontational course against Greece and Bulgaria

The VMRO had already struck a nationalistic tone during the election campaign and announced a confrontational course against the neighboring countries of Greece and Bulgaria in the event of an election victory. This could significantly hinder the accession negotiations that the EU opened with North Macedonia in July 2022. Both EU countries have the right to veto every single step in the negotiations.

Most recently, Bulgaria demanded that North Macedonia mention the 3,000-strong Bulgarian minority in its constitution. This is a prerequisite for the EU accession negotiations to make decisive progress after the formal opening. Under the outgoing government, the VMRO refused to approve a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds majority. It will soon be her turn if she wants to keep the country on the path to the EU.

In the runoff election for the office of head of state, which also took place on Wednesday, VMRO candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova scored a clear victory. According to the electoral commission, they received 65 percent of the vote. The incumbent, Stevo Pendarovski, who was supported by the Social Democrats and who defeated Siljanovska-Davkova in the runoff election five years ago, had no chance this time. In North Macedonia – as in Germany – the head of state primarily has representative tasks.