Western Balkans and EU News
17.07.20 | Opinions

[Opinion] North Macedonia is a good story


By Daniel Serwer

Washington/Skopje, dtt-net.com - The outcome of July 16 elections is no muddier than previous North Macedonian elections, which have consistently left the Albanian political parties as the dealmakers and breakers. That is true this time as well, with the added complication that no single Albanian party may be able to give either of the main parties enough votes in parliament to gain a commanding majority. So government formation is likely to be a messy and perhaps lengthy process, but that is often the case in parliamentary systems that have more than two parties or electoral coalitions.

To focus on that is to miss the main point: both the winning Socialists and the opposition Macedonian ethnic nationalists did well in a serious and well-run electoral competition. With the country still in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev survived after agreeing with Greece to change the official name of the country to North Macedonia. The ethnic Macedonian nationalists led by Hristijan Mickoski survived the downfall of its former leader and prime minister, who somehow escaped from prison and remains in exile.

Assuming Zaev is successful in government formation negotiations, North Macedonia faces a future with a pro-EU and pro-NATO government. That government will face a vigorous opposition, one that would now be well-advised to refocus its attention away from opposition to the Prespa Agreement towards EU membership.

Even if Zaev fails to gain a majority in parliament and Mickoski succeeds, the latter would need to govern in alliance with one or more pro-NATO and pro-EU Albanian political parties who back the Prespa Agreement. Nothing like that reasonable outcome would be possible today in neighboring Serbia, Montenegro, or Bosnia and Herzegovina. North Macedonia is fortunate indeed.

A word too about the electoral process, which is arguably more important than the outcome. The competition appears to have run more smoothly than at times in the past. Yes, the website of the electoral commission was hacked, but so too yesterday was Joe Biden’s Twitter account. I can imagine who might have done it, but I have no evidence. The hack was overcome and the election results are clear. The OSCE has judged the election was “generally administered effectively,” despite Covid-19. Concerns focused on legal changes made too close to the election in OSCE’s judgment, even though some were made to meet OSCE recommendations:


It would be unwise to expect everything to go smoothly now in a Balkan country that has seen its share of turbulence. But Macedonia has stepped back from the brink many times in its almost 30 years since independence. The path ahead is likely to be bumpy–meeting the requirements of the EU’s acquis communautaire in a multi-ethnic democracy will be no mean feat. Macedonia faces bigger challenges than EU members Slovenia and Croatia did, not least because the requirements for rule of law have been significantly tightened. But EU accession is the country’s strategic goal. If both government and opposition keep the focus on that, North Macedonia’s future will be bright.

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(Daniel Serwer is professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and director of its Conflict Management and American Foreign Policy Programs, as well as a Scholar at the Middle East Institute. This opinion of his was first published at his blog: peacefare.net)

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com.

17.07.20 | Opinions