The partners in the ruling coalition, SDSM and DUI, have helped each other significantly in the vote for mayors in the ethnically mixed communities in the first round of the local elections. In the wake of that, BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians have agreed to coalesce in the runoff, which could bring them victory in Chair, Tetovo Gostivar, etc., if the first round results are repeated. However, that would happen only if the results are roughly reprised, which is very unlikely as the majority of citizens vote following their own conviction, rather than obeying parties’ instructions.
Author: Vlatko Stojanovski
Before the local elections, the main ruling coalition partners, SDSM and DUI, announced publicly that they have reached an agreement for mutual endorsement in the ethnically mixed municipalities – Skopje and its municipalities, Tetovo, Gostivar… This agreement instituted that SDSM will endorse DUI’s mayoral candidates in the dominantly Albanian municipalities, but which also have significant number of Macedonians and Albanian supporters of SDSM. The same goes for DUI – they agreed to endorse SDSM’s mayoral candidates in municipalities with substantial Albanian minority.
If we analyze the votes won by the mayoral candidates and electoral lists of both parties in these municipalities, we could safely conclude that the coalition between the social-democrats and the integrationists has proven very efficient and productive. Furthermore, this mutual endorsement has proven decisive for the victory of some candidates or their winning of the majority of votes in the first round, making them favorites with great superiority in the runoff against the opposing candidates of VMRO-DPMNE, BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians.
So, Petre Shilegov from SDSM with 141.164 votes claimed victory in Skopje against his major opponent Koce Trajanovski from VMRO-DPMNE, who won 101.472 votes. But, besides having won 39.692 votes more than Trajanovski, Shilegov won 18.453 votes more than his party’s electoral list for the Council of the City of Skopje. DUI’s electoral list won the favor of 17.100 voters, who have also voted for Shilegov, owing to the fact that the integrationists, pursuant to the cooperation agreement with the social-democrats, didn’t nominate their own candidate.
Moreover, one municipality in Skopje where Shilegov made the most significant difference is Saraj, where he won 9.000 votes, whereas Trajanovski won only 619. Concerning the electoral lists for the Council of the City of Skopje, the social-democrats won 3.294 votes in Saraj, or 5.706 fewer than the votes won by their candidate for mayor of Skopje. In fact, the 5000 extra votes won by Shilegov have been given by supporters of DUI, whose electoral list for the City of Skopje won 5.525 votes.
Further, in Chair, Shilegov won 14.752 votes, 10.721 more than Trajanovski’s 4.031. But, Shilegov won 8.658 votes more than what his party’s electoral list for the City of Skopje won, or 6.094 in particular. The difference between the votes won by Shilegov and the votes won by the councilor candidates from SDSM, which puts him ahead of Trajanovski in this municipality, is more or less the same as the number of votes won by DIU’s councilors’ list – 7.887.
MUTUAL ENDORSEMENT IN SKOPJE, TETOVO, GOSTIVAR…
As a matter of fact, this precedent has been repeated in the municipalities in Skopje with mixed demographic structure, such as Gazi Baba and Butel, which in the Macedonian pluralistic history have always been governed by VMRO-DPMNE. In the first round of these local elections, VMRO-DPMNE’s electoral lists won more votes than SDSM’s, however SDSM’s mayoral candidates won more votes than the opponents from VMRO-DPMNE, thanks to the Albanian voters’ endorsement, given due to the pact with DUI.
Namely, in Gazi Baba, VMRO-DPMNE’s electoral list won 16.973 votes, whereas SDSM’s 15.616 or 1.357 fewer. But, Toni Trajkovski, candidate nominated by DPMNE, won 16.522 or almost the same as his party’s councilors’ list (451 vote fewer), whereas SDSM’s mayoral candidate, Boris Georgievski, won 17.591 votes, or 1.975 more than his party’s councilors’ list in this municipality. DUI’s exact input to Georgievski’s result is a bit difficult to estimate, because in this municipality, DUI, BESA and the Alliance for the Albanians came out with joint councilors’ list, which won 1.712 votes. Still, the Albanians’ endorsement of SDSM’s candidate is evident.
As regards Butel, VMRO-DPMNE’s electoral list won 7.755 votes, whereas SDSM’s 7.574 votes, or 181 votes fewer. On the other hand, SDSM’s mayoral candidate Velimir Smilevski won 10.063 votes, while Darko Kostovski, VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate, won 7.845 votes, or 2.218 votes fewer. To sum up, Kostovski’s votes and VMRO-DPMNE’ councilors’ list votes differ by 90, Smilevski won 2.489 votes more than his party’s councilors’ list, which is significantly more than the votes won by DUI’s councilors’ list – 1.435. This might mean that Smilevski has won the votes of the Alliance for the Albanians, which didn’t nominate a candidate in this municipality, but its councilors’ list won 1.054 votes.
Moreover, SDSM didn’t nominate a candidate in Chair, where they endorsed DUI’s candidate, Visar Ganiu. In the first round, he won 11.860 votes, or 3.491 more than his party’s electoral list. Apparently, this is the outcome of SDSM’s endorsement, taking into consideration that this party’s councilors’ list got the support of 4.405 voters, most of which voted for Ganiu, helping him to surpass Zekirija Ibraimi from BESA, who won 10.202 votes or 1.658 votes fewer.
INFORMAL ENDORSEMENT OR INDIVIDUAL DECISION?
Furthermore, SDSM didn’t nominate mayoral candidates in other “Albanian municipalities” and endorsed DUI’s candidates. Such is the case in Tetovo, where DUI’s mayoral candidate Teuta Arifi won most votes. She won 13.265 votes, and behind her is Bilal Kasami, BESA’s leader with 8.767 votes. Given these data, it turns out that Kasami has won 1.715 votes more than BESA’s councilors’ list, while Arifi has won 2.529 votes more than her party’s councilors’ list.
Taking into account that SDSM’s electoral list won 4.123 votes, some of these votes have presumably been won by Kasami, but most of them have been won by Arifi. Here, it should be emphasized that some Macedonians who have voted for SDSM’s councilors’ list haven’t voted for any Albanian mayoral candidate, but for the only Macedonian candidate for mayor, Goran Manojlovski, who was nominated by VMRO-DPMNE. In this regard, he won 6.459 votes, whereas his party’s councilors’ list won 5.903 votes or 556 fewer.
In Gostivar, another major municipality with dominant Albanian population, Nevzat Bejta from DUI won 12.095 votes in the first round, and right behind him was the candidate nominated by the Alliance for the Albanians (AA) Arben Taravari. He won 11.600, or 495 fewer. Actually, Bejta won 3.666 votes more than DUI’s electoral list, and this is definitely an outcome of SDSM’s endorsement, which maintains significant number of votes in this town, having in mind that SDSM’s electoral list won 4.510 votes. The circumstances in this municipality are specific because of the situation with Taravari, who won 4.778 votes more than AA’s councilors’ list.
This can be explained with the fact that he was backed by smaller number of Macedonians that have voted for SDSM and greater number of Macedonians inclining towards VMRO-DPMNE and members of other ethnic communities. Relatedly, VMRO-DPMNE’s councilors’ list won 4.603 votes, whereas this party’s mayoral candidate, Dafina Stojanovska, won 3.543 or 1.060 votes fewer. These votes are considered in favor of Taravari or against Bejta, either way, knowing that a Macedonian has no chance of winning. Plus, the big difference in the votes won by Taravari and those for his party’s electoral list exists because of the votes won by the two Turkish parties – Democratic Party of the Turks and Movement for National Unity of the Turks. These parties’ electoral lists won 3.302 votes in total, and the same people have most likely cast their ballots in the election of the mayor as well, because the number of invalid ballots for mayors and councilors is almost the same, and the layout and ratio of votes imply that they have voted for AA’s candidate.
SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCE IN STRUGA
The mutual endorsement between SDSM and DUI has been maximized in the aforementioned municipalities, but this is not the case with Struga, where SDSM nominated their mayoral candidate. That’s Vasil Ashtalkovski, who won the third place with 7.140 votes, right behind Ramiz Merko from DUI with 7.916 and Zijadin Sela, the leader of the Alliance for the Albanians, with 9.289 votes. Hence, SDSM can easily determine the winner between Sela and Merko in the runoff, but the party has declared neutrality because this municipality is especially important to one coalition partner – Sela.
However, it’s not unlikely that Zoran Zaev will endorse Merko more directly, especially after AA and BESA declared coalition, i.e. mutual endorsement of their candidates in the runoff in places where one mayoral candidate from one of these two parties still has chances to win mayoral office in the race against DUI’s candidate. If these two parties receive the same support in the runoff as in the first round, then their candidates have fair chances to win mayoral offices in several big and major municipalities.
For instance, BESA’s candidate in Gostivar, Asaf Ademi, won 3.104 votes in the first round, which are more than enough for Taravari to compensate the deficit of 495 votes he has against Bejta. The Alliance for the Albanians’ candidate in Tetovo, Atnan Neziri, won 4.874 votes in the first round, which would help Kasami surpass Arifi. Such is the case in Chair, where AA’s candidate, Faruk Abdi, won 2.327 votes in the first round, whereas Ibraimi from BESA won 1.658 votes fewer than Ganiu.
Considering all of the aforesaid, the conclusion is that the SDSM-DUI coalition has been rather useful to both parties’ mayoral candidates in the mixed ethnic communities. At the same time, their opponents have managed to attract voters who haven’t voted for their electoral lists, so the only enigma is whether they might have received informal endorsement from other parties or this vote influx is due to their personal qualities, which are the most important things to the people who vote by their own conscience?