Upcoming elections in North Macedonia

Upcoming elections in North Macedonia
Photo by Element5 Digital, 2016, via Pexels


Oona Carteron

Women’s Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

The upcoming North Macedonian presidential elections are to be held on Wednesday, April 24th amidst political tensions and discussions over accession to the European Union. This article will assess internal tensions and the long term consequences of potential election results. 

The last elections in North Macedonia, set the stage for the outcome of the April 2024 suffrage.  In 2020, the parliamentary elections saw the “We Can” coalition, composed of both the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and the Besa Movement, a centre-right ethnic Albanian party, win a narrow majority. Although the victory came as a relief for all European defenders, the increasing amount of seats won by the “Renewal Macedonia” coalition, led by the right-wing nationalist and conservative Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation–Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), threatens to fan the flames of regional tensions and jeopardise the progress of accession negotiations with the EU. With neither party holding an absolute majority, a coalition government, headed by Zoran Zaev (SDSM) was formed after extensive negotiations. Moreover, tensions rose after the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the largest ethnic-Albanian representative, demanded the appointment of an Albanian minority president as head of the coalition government. This request sparked intense discontent and resulted in a compromise allowing for a 100 days temporary government to be headed by the Albanian minority prior to the next elections. In January, 2024, Talat Xhaferi thus became the first ever member of the country’s Albanian minority to preside over North Macedonia’s government. Indeed, ethnic minority Albanians make up around a quarter of North Macedonia's population and are concentrated primarily in the western parts of the country, near the border with Albania and Kosovo. With conflicts emerging over matters of language or political representation within governmental bodies, and acknowledgment of cultural identities, Talat Xhaferi’s leadership comes as a significant step towards an increased representation of the minority in public institutions. 

While Prime Minister Zoran Zaev's administration has been instrumental in advancing North Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, the ascent of the Renewal Macedonia coalition is threatening to constitute a severe set-back for earlier progresses. Notably, the 2020 elections followed the historic agreement between North Macedonia and Greece to resolve the long-standing dispute over the country's name. Known as the Prespa Agreement, it was reached in June 2018 and paved the way for North Macedonia's NATO membership and opened the path for EU accession talks. To put it simply, the feud is the result of contradicting identity and territorial claims following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s having contemporary ramifications. As the newly independent state emerged as the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, however, objected to the use of the name "Macedonia," arguing that it implied territorial ambitions towards the Greek region of Macedonia and could lead to confusion or appropriation of Greek historical and cultural heritage. The agreement thereby signalled a new era of cooperation between Macedonia and Greece, improving bilateral relations, terminating systematic Greek veto of North Macedonia’s accession to international organisations and fostering stability in the Western Balkans. 

VMRO campaigned against the Prespa Agreement and has repeatedly accused the government of undermining national interest and Macedonian identity. Divisions amidst the SDSM-DUI coalition are threatening to divide the votes and leave a powerful vacuum filled by the VMRO-led coalition. In a bid to confront the DUI, the European Alliance for Change named their own candidate, Arben Taravari, thus unassociating from other party leaders who intended to endorse SDSM. In turn, DUI nominated Bujar Osmani slipping away from their promise to support the SDMS candidate, the incumbent Stevo Pendarovski, whose ability to secure the presidency is quietly eroding. VMRO-DPMNE also seems to be strengthening its electorate and is scoring high in opinion polls, while smaller parties such as Levica are also gaining in popularity and are expected to draw in supporters from the traditional parties' voter base. 

In conclusion, the seven candidates, Stevo Pendarovski (SDSM), Gordana Siljanovska Davkova (VMRO-DPMNE), Bujar Osmani (DUI), Dr. Biljana Vankovska Cvetanovska  of the left-wing and somewhat controversial Levica party, Arben Taravari of the Alliance for Albanians, former SDSM MP Maxim Dimitrievski of the Movement for Our Macedonia and Stevco Jakimovski of the small Citizens Option for Macedonia, will be elected by a two-rounds vote with the winner serving a renewable five-year term. The results of the upcoming elections will have major ramifications for the country’s ongoing strife with Bulgaria and its other neighbours, as well as for perspectives of accession to the European Union. Uncertainty prevails as high levels of apathy and abstention could hinder the formation and legitimacy of a government after the election.


1 - Duman, C. (2022). The New Government Established in North Macedonia and Its Regional Implications, Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), Retrieved 2024, April 22 from 


2 - Clinkemaillié, T. (2019). Le seul problème entre la Macédoine du Nord et la Grèce était celui du nom. Le Monde, Retrieved 2024, April 22 from https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/04/05/le-seul-probleme-entre-la-macedoine-du-nord-et-la-grece-etait-celui-du-nom_5446427_3210.html 

3 - Grammatikakis, O.  (2020). After the Prespa Agreement: Why North Macedonia’ accession to EU won’t happen in the near future. Prague’s Institute of International Relations, Retrieved 2024, April 22 from https://www.iir.cz/after-the-prespa-agreement-why-north-macedonia-s-accession-to-eu-won-t-happen-in-the-near-future