Is North Macedonia saying goodbye to Europe?
🇲🇰 / North Macedonia / #39
North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced his resignation following the crushing defeat of his governing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in the second round of the country's local elections.
Who did his party lose to?
To the right-wing nationalist opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE. They won in a number of key municipalities. They were also victorious at the mayoral race in the capital Skopje where incumbent Petre Shilegov lost to independent challenger Danela Arsovska, backed by VMRO-DPMNE.
Why did Zaev's party lose?
Economic progress is slow. Even the country has "made great strides in reforming its economy over the last decade," as the World Bank says, economic progress is slower than his supporters might have expected. Currently, North Macedonia is the sixth-poorest country in Europe, with a decline of GDP by 4.5 per cent in 2020.
What did Zaev achieve?
Zaev took office in 2017, a year after his predecessor Nikola Gruevski, was forced out by popular protests (and fled to Hungary) amid allegations of fraud and abuse of power (the EU characterised it as "state capture"). During Zaev's four-year premiership, Skopje resolved a longstanding dispute with Greece over its name, changing it to North Macedonia to open the door to EU accession. But the talks haven't started yet, which was also a problem for him. Vetos from France and Bulgaria blocked North Macedonia's path towards the European Union — leaving Zaev's most important promise to his voters unfulfilled.
What about the future?
Macedonian people have lost faith in the path to the EU that Zaev and his party promoted. But Zaev's pro-European and liberal government wants to stay in place until polls are scheduled for 2024. Zaev resisted calls from the right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE for a snap election. The coming weeks will show whether the election will remain in 2024. In any case, Zaev's successor will think twice if a pro-European policy is a strategy to convince voters.