Todays Date
July 16, 2019

HABEMUS PAPAM (PRESIDENT)

Writes: Aleksandar Krzhallovski

 

In the spirit of today’s visit of Pope Francis to Macedonia, we can borrow the phrase used in the inauguration of every new head of the Catholic Church – Habemus papam or We have a pope – for the first time in our country.

I would use the same phrase for the appointment of a new president of the country the day before yesterday (every similarity with a previous president, whose best-known nickname was precisely the Pope, is random).

 

Yes, we have a new president – the Galichnik Stevo Pendarovski. The final results are already known and publicly available on the SEC website, and they are reduced to about 60,000 votes difference, in terms of turnout of 46.7% or slightly below 850,000 voters. Small review of the electoral process:

– it was confirmed that the competitiveness of the first round result (the small difference of around 5,000 votes) contributed to greater mobilization of the parties and voters themselves for the second round;

– although increased in relation to the first round (exactly 5 percentage points-pp) turnout is still small (regardless of the fact that the voter list does not correspond to the reality, that is, the number of inhabitants present in the country), thus confirming the voters’ “message” to the parties for dissatisfaction with the practice of politics;

– the election day went on peacefully and without almost any incidents, and despite several statements by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE about irregularities, the general impression is that these elections were fair and democratic and after a long time they are not disputed (at least not seriously and with specific objections) by anyone;

– the final difference of 6.93 pp from the voters, i.e. 3.24 pp of the total number of voters, is very close to the only poll forecast for the second round (the agency M-prospect for MTV, which amounted to 2.4 pp for Pendarovski , i.e. the difference to the achieved result is less than 1 pp). Given the precision and the published polls for the first round of three agencies (M-prospect, Rating and IPIS), we can also establish a return or confirmation of the credibility of these agencies;

– the realized difference in favor of Pendarovski was brought mainly by the ethnic Albanian voters. There are about 80,000 votes difference in places with the majority of that population (about 113,000 votes for Pendarovski, compared to about 33,000 for Siljanovska), and in five of those municipalities Pendarovski received 90% of the vote. In these 15 municipalities Pendarovski won 57 thousand votes more than in the first round, and Siljanovska only about 5 thousand more.

 

The question is which party from the Albanian bloc is most responsible for that difference?

For two days there have been polemics about it on social networks, but since only DUI had an active campaign for the second round, most of the credit for Pendarovski’s elections seems to be theirs. In addition to this claim are the differences in those municipalities in relation to the votes won by the third candidate, Blerim Reka, in the first round. For example, in Lipkovo Reka won about 3,000 votes, and now Pendarovski received about 5,000 votes more (at least 2,000 “new” votes). In Saraj there are about 1,000 such votes.

On the other hand, commentators who do not “like” DUI point out that in most of these municipalities, the number of votes for Pendarovski in the second round is actually similar to the sum of his votes from the first round and those of Reka, that is, the largest part of those newly won votes for Pendarovski on Sunday are precisely the 80,000 voters of Reka (i.e. the supporters of the Alliance for the Albanians and Besa). But in these (15) municipalities, Reka received about 60 thousand votes (of the total of 80 thousand), so about 52,500 were “new” voters for Stevo.

 

However, as Prime Minister Zaev said, the parties do not keep these votes in their pockets, so even for these 50,000 people it cannot be fully claimed that they are exclusively DUI supporters, as well as for the other 60,000 of them the difference made by Pendarovski in the second round in these environments being supporters of the Alliance or Besa (or DPA or other ethnic Albanian parties).

We can come closer to the truth only by checking the voter lists and by comparison whether the same persons voted in both rounds and how many are really “new” voters. The parties that had their observers in polling stations may be able to point out these figures, but I doubt that they will come out with such data, and will continue with their claims that exactly “their” supporters brought Pendarovski’s victory. And even in that case, we cannot claim “whose” voters are they, and even less how they would vote in eventual parliamentary (or local) elections, as shown by the cases of Ohrid and Novo Selo, where the same voters won a victory for the candidates for mayors of SDSM, but at the same time they gave Siljanovska’s advantage over Pendarovski in the presidential race!

 

However, habemus president, in peaceful and fair elections, in elections characterized by low turnout and “punishment” for the parties, in which Pendarovski won the majority of the total votes, but Siljanovska won the majority in the majority community, that is, among ethnic Macedonians.

This, in a way, confirmed the support for the Prespa Agreement and the constitutional amendments that were adopted by a two-thirds majority in the Parliament in January, but it also proved that the for the majority of ethnic Macedonians the agreement is simply not good enough and the government should very carefully continue with its further implementation, especially with regard to the work of the commissions that have been formed on various issues (from historical to economic – trade marks) and the speed of application of some of the provisions (to wait with the start of negotiations for the EU and the opening and closing of certain chapters of that process).

 

In the end, a word on today’s visit of Pope Francis. Of course, like many other things, this visit will be characterized as “historic”. We can say so, considering that it is the first visit of a Pope to Macedonia as an independent country (and perhaps even at all?). In any case, it is important both from a political and from a church aspect. This is the first Pope who has accepted to visit Macedonia, although both his predecessors (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) were invited and he is visiting in time after completing the agreement with Greece. In that sense, it is seen as an additional important international support for our further European integration. From a church aspect, the visit is seen as a support for the small (about 15,000 people) Catholic community in the country, for its greater inclusion and influence on the events in the country. From a wider aspect, as a Pope dedicated to ecumenism, or closer cooperation of religious communities around the world, especially Christian ones, this visit is likely to be part of the mosaic of possibly overcoming the 1,000-year division in Christianity, from the great schism in 1054 and the various roads of the eastern and western church, that is, Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Of course, that process will last for a long time and may never end with reunification, but as some Western commentators say – with this visit, Pope Francis will bring “big things in small packages”.

The focus of the visit will be on the poor as well as the migrants/refugees, and a special place in his stay will be the memory of the Skopje Mother Teresa, who among other things is one of the greatest symbols of unity in these areas, with her Vlach and Albanian ethnic roots, and practicing the Christian religious tradition.

Well, let’s welcome him for the first time in Macedonia, after which we can say “Habemus (we have) a Pope”!

 

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