The ruling coalition of Northern Macedonia, led by the Social Democrats, has appointed Stevo Pendarovski - the country's NATO access coordinator - as a presidential candidate for the upcoming elections.
The election is seen as the first test for the ruling coalition of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and its ally, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, following the signing of the Prespa agreement.
The latter, under which the country changed its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, resolved the ten-year dispute with Greece and paved the way to NATO and integration into the European Union. The agreement was strongly contested by the main opposition party, the Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE).
Who is Stevo Pendarovski
The 55enne Pendarovski is a professor of political science as well as a political exponent for many years. He began his political career as deputy minister for public relations in the interior ministry and as head of the department of analysis and research of the same ministry from 1998 to 2001.
Subsequently he was national security advisor from 2001 to 2004, head of the state electoral commission from the 2004 to the 2005 and foreign policy adviser to former president Branko Crvenkovski, from the 2005 to the 2009.
This will be his second presidential nomination: in the previous elections of April 2014, Pendarovski - an SDSM candidate - was defeated by the current president of the Republic, Gjorge Ivanov, who was supported by VMRO-DPMNE.
"For the first time in history, 30 political parties, of all ethnic communities, joined in choosing a common presidential candidate.
Northern Macedonia needs a true president, partner and friend of the citizens of the future, a president with a high sense of responsibility, dedication and who will work for integration into NATO and the European Union."- reads the release of the SDSM.
Pendarovski's main rival in the elections will be the VMRO-DPMNE candidate, Gordana Siljanovksa-Davkova, a strong opponent of the Prespa agreement and the law that wants the Albanian language as the second official language of the country.
The Albanian parties, 'BESA' and 'Alliance for the Albanians', have chosen Blerim Reka as a candidate, but it is unlikely that the latter will pass to the second round.
The first round of elections will be held on April 21. If no candidate obtains the 50% of the votes, the 5 may hold a second round with the participation of the two candidates who have received the most votes in the first round.
It will be the sixth presidential vote in the country. The new president will replace Gjorge Ivanov, who has completed his two consecutive terms from 10 total years.
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