In its otherwise correct report on the outcome of presidential elections in Macedonia, Тhe New York Times has published misleading information about how the opposition candidate became a candidate in the first place.

In the article “Supporter of North Macedonia Name Change Wins Presidency” NYT wrote:

A constitutional law expert and a professor at the law school in the capital, Skopje, Mrs. Siljanovska Davkova initially ran as an independent, but then picked up the support of the main conservative party, known as VMRO-DPMNE.

In fact, VMRO-DPMNE chose Siljanovska Davkova from a pool of nine potential presidential candidates at the party convention held in Struga on 16 February 2019. She had not started her campaign on her own, but only within the confines of the internal process of the political party. However, in order to attract voters from outside of their party base, VMRO-DPMNE tried to portray her as a so-called ‘supra-party candidate’, i.e. a candidate with the wider appeal that transcends the party framework.

According to Macedonian law, one can become a presidential candidate if appointed by political parties or if the candidate collects over 10.000 signatures by individual supporters. Both opposition VMRO-DPMNE and ruling SDSM choose to use the second method, mobilizing their members to give signatures as individuals for the candidates chosen by the party.

Moreover, all candidates in the presidential race were not formal party members. However, none of them started a campaign on their own, to be later joined by a political party.

Portraying the candidates, as somehow ‘independent’ from the party that run their campaign was a major propaganda goal. The primary purpose of this spin was to attract independent or undecided voters. This was in particular important for Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, who had to disassociate herself from the bad reputation that VMRO-DPMNE gained during the regime of Nikola Gruevski, a former prime minister who is currently a fugitive from the law, hiding in Hungary.

Like most media in Macedonia, The New York Times also failed to mention that all three presidential candidates have been university professors, including the winner Stevo Pendarovski, and the third candidate, Blerim Reka, who didn’t enter the second round. Siljanovska’s campaign put a heavy emphasis on her university title as part of the tactics to use appeal to authority.