Local elections in North Macedonia test ruling Social Democrats

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SKOPJE – Voters across North Macedonia will go to the polls on October 17 for local elections which mark the first test for the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in power by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev since she narrowly won the legislative elections of July 2020.

North Macedonia has some 1.8 million voters who will elect local elected representatives in 80 municipalities, plus the 10 municipalities that make up the capital, Skopje.

In total, more than 11,000 applicants come to local offices. They include around 300 candidates for mayor as well as 546 lists of candidates for municipal councils.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

The four parties that make up Zaev’s governing coalition support liberal democratic principles as well as integration into the European Union and NATO.

These parties all present candidates separately. Together, the four coalition parties controlled 70 city halls before the October 17 election.

The SDSM currently holds 57 town halls.

Its main coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), is the country’s largest ethnic Albanian party and the country’s third-largest political party. It currently controls 10 town halls.

The other parties in the ruling coalition are the right-wing Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which holds two terms as mayor, and the Besa Movement, a center-right Albanian political party with a sitting mayor.

The main rivals of the ruling coalition are nationalist candidates from the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) opposition.

The VMRO-DPMNE is the second largest party in the country. Its members held five municipal mayor positions prior to the elections.

But the VMRO-DPMNE also works in collaboration with the opposition Alliance for Albanians and the Alternative. As part of their cooperation agreement, only one opposition party presents a candidate for mayor in some municipalities while the other has pledged to support them.

Several independent lists of activists from non-governmental organizations are also running for local offices on October 17. Voters in most cities and some rural municipalities will see them on the ballot as part of the newly established independent lists.

Political analysts believe that the growth of independent lists could test the strength of the main parties and bring a new dimension to city councils.

North Macedonia is setting up terminals that will use fingerprints to identify voters.

North Macedonia is setting up terminals that will use fingerprints to identify voters.

The October 17 vote also marks the introduction of a new system and terminals that will use fingerprints to identify voters.

Authorities in North Macedonia said they arrested five people for bribing voters on the eve of the elections.

Four people were arrested in Dracevo, near Skopje, after police in North Macedonia said they tried to give people money in exchange for their votes. A fifth person was arrested in the village of Milino after being caught giving money to voters.

In another incident, a man from Prilep was remanded in custody for allegedly threatening the city’s mayoral candidate, the attorney general’s office said.

A judge has ordered an eight-day detention for the 27-year-old after one of the mayoral candidates was threatened on Facebook. He faces criminal charges for breach of security.


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