Presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of North Macedonia 2024: Return to neo-Gruevizm?

The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES)[1] based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly conducts analyses of events spanning the Middle East, the Balkans, and global affairs. IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current political situation in North Macedonia in light of the second round of presidential elections and regular parliamentary elections. From the comprehensive analysis "Presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of North Macedonia 2024: Return to neo-Gruevizm?" we highlight the most interesting and important aspects.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in North Macedonia 2024:


Return to neo-Gruevizm?


On 8 May 2024, North Macedonia will hold the second round of presidential elections and regular parliamentary elections. 

Under the proportional representation system, 1.814.317 voters will have the right to vote for the Macedonian parliament (Sobranie), which comprises 120 MPs. The leading parties in the upcoming elections include SDSM and the coalition "For European Future" (the ruling Social Democratic Union), the coalition centred around VMRO-DPMNE (the opposition conservative nationalist party), the coalition "European Front" - Democratic Union for Integration (DUI - the ruling party of ethnic Albanians), and the coalition "Worth - VLEN”) - opposition coalition of parties of ethnic Albanians. Political parties of minorities such as Turks, Roma, Bosniaks, Serbs, and others will be traditionally represented in the Macedonian parliament.

On 23 April 2024, the IFIMES international institute published a pre-election analysis titled “Presidential Elections in the Republic of North Macedonia 2024: The “Ivanovization” of the Presidential Function?”, link:

President - an important corrective of the executive power and moral authority 

In the first round of the presidential elections, the candidate of the coalition around VMRO-DPMNE Gordana Siljanovska Davkova secured the most votes with 363,085 (40.09%). The second-ranked is the incumbent president Stevo Pendarovski, the joint candidate of the ruling SDSM (Social Democratic Union of Macedonia) and the "For European Future" coalition, with 180,499 votes (19.93%). The turnout in the first round of elections was 48.38%.

Analysts believe that the newly elected president must act as a corrective to the executive power and serve as a moral authority, bolstering the country's position on the Euro-Atlantic path. However, there is a legitimate concern that the election of Gordana Siljanovska Davkova may signal a potential shift towards Russia, deviating from the Euro-Atlantic trajectory.

VMRO-DPMNE does not renounce the political legacy of Nikola Gruevski

In February 2015, the Macedonian intelligence service (UBK) was exposed for secretly and unlawfully wiretapping approximately 26,000 citizens. Under Nikola Gruevski's regime, an estimated sum of over five billion euros was reportedly siphoned out of the country, while businessmen were coerced into paying "racket" to the regime. Inter-ethnic conflicts were regularly manufactured on a daily basis, creating insecurity, anxiety and fear among citizens. Gruevski and his inner circle oligarchy acquired massive wealth during this period.

An informal centre of power emerged with Nikola Gruevski - Sašo Mijalkov - Orce Kamčev as a symbiosis of politicians, tycoons and the mafia, supported by underground intelligence, effectively governing the state. After the fall of this regime, subsequent Macedonian governments governed only partially, because they failed to fully counter the informal centres of power and dismantle the Gruevski-Mijalkov-Kamčev regime, which continuously worked subversively against the government, possessing significant funds to weaken and overthrow it with the intention of reverting North Macedonia to its previous state.

Degruevization not only requires addressing the causes and consequences of the regime of Nikola Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE but also demands a necessary, long-term process of dismantling that regime, which has been only partially achieved. VMRO-DPMNE has never disavowed Nikola Gruevski's political legacy. The harmful effects of Gruevski's 11-year rule have not been eliminated. Since 2018, Gruevski has been on the run, in exile in Hungary under the protection of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz). Several final verdicts were passed for Gruevski and his associates, who have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In North Macedonia, we are witnessing a combination of the political-criminal legacy of Nikola Gruevski's regime and Orbán's financial-criminal and banking-business octopus.

Instead of achieving complete degruevization, which is not feasible without the extradition of Nikola Gruevski from Hungary and his surrender to the authorities of North Macedonia, a victory of VMRO-DPMNE in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections will lead to a phase of neo-Gruevizm, which could prove costly for North Macedonia. The country will likely continue to lag behind in various processes, with unresolved issues leading to frustration and consequences for the future of North Macedonia, essentially reverting to the state of 2016.

An objective analysis reveals that the return to neo-Gruevizm in the new Macedonian government would only lack the presence of Nikola Gruevski himself (who is in exile and has strained relations with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski). Everything else remains the same. Hungarian money continues to flow into pro-VMRO-DPMNE media unabated. The ideological framework remains steadfast from the time of Gruevski to the present day. Careful examination of the potential personnel of the next executive power reveals that 90% of individuals were part of the lower-ranking "combatant" echelons of VMRO-DPMNE's rule from 2006-2017.

Will Albin Kurti aid in establishing a pro-Russian government in North Macedonia?

In the Albanian political bloc during the parliamentary elections in North Macedonia, Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti (LVV) will wield a strong, perhaps decisive, influence. He staunchly supports the Albanian opposition united in the "Worth-VLEN" coalition, which is expected to become a partner of VMRO-DPMNE in forming a new government.

Analysts believe that Albin Kurti plays a historical role and bears significant responsibility in the North Macedonian parliamentary elections. His influence could contribute to the establishment of a new Macedonian pro-Russian government, contrasting Kurti's pro-Western stance, vigorous opposition to Russian influence in Kosovo, and the broader Albanian pro-Western orientation. At the same time, it is confirmed that Albanians maintained relations with Nikola Gruevski in exile throughout, and Ali Ahmeti (DUI) himself requested an amnesty for Nikola Gruevski from the state president Steve Pendarovski, who rejected the plea.

Macedonia's backsliding into the past

VMRO-DPMNE opposes the constitutional name of the Republic of North Macedonia and advocates for the annulment of signed international agreements, especially the Prespa Agreement. However, the country has achieved historic milestones such as NATO membership and the recognition of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric (MPC-OA). Over the past seven years, there has been a notable absence of significant inter-ethnic incidents, a stark contrast to the daily occurrences during VMRO-DPMNE's governance.

With the Prespa Agreement, Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and Alexis Tsipras (SYRIZA) marked a victory against the doctrine of Slobodan Milošević and Constantine Mitsotakis, which was supported by certain Macedonian political parties, that denied Macedonia's existence as a sovereign state and Macedonians as a distinct nation. Securing full NATO membership realised the centuries-old dream of Macedonians and other citizens to have their own state, whose territorial integrity and sovereignty are guaranteed by the world's largest and strongest military-political alliance – NATO. Thus, grand nationalist projects that included or had aspirations towards North Macedonia were defeated.

Over 160 media portals have been identified and located, consistently producing numerous fake news stories and scandals aimed at causing chaos and discrediting. This is linked to Adinamic Media, a company that operates websites supporting the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE. Adinamic Media is associated with the Hungarian public television network Magyar Televizo (MTV), which favours Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's leading Fidesz party.

Analysts warn of a real risk of North Macedonia plunging into a new political crisis if already signed and ratified international agreements and commitments are annulled, leading to a loss of another 20 or 30 years and renewed confrontation with neighbouring countries, along with the abandonment of the country's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Consequently, the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections could be decisive for the country's future amid complex international circumstances. North Macedonia needs a strong internal consensus on its future, ensuring that the hard-won multi-ethnic harmony and stability are not compromised.

Ljubljana/Bruxelles/Washington/Skopje, 7 May 2024

[1]  IFIMES - International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council ECOSOC/UN in New York since 2018, and it is the publisher of the international scientific journal "European Perspectives."