Early legislative elections were held in [the former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia on June 6, 2011. All 123 members of the Macedonian Parliament, the Sobranie, were up for reelection. 120 MPs are elected in six 20-member electoral districts through the d’Hondt method of PR with no threshold. Right before this election, three seats representing Macedonians abroad were added. One member is elected to represent each of Europe-Africa, the Americas and Asia. There were only 7,213 registered voters living abroad, electing three members, a massive overrepresentation of their weight considering that each MP on the “mainland” represents roughly 17,600 Macedonians while each new overseas MPs represents only 2,400 or so voters. The results of the overseas seats will show why they were added in.
Macedonia has been ruled since 2006 by the centre-right populist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) which has a very cool name. The VMRO-DPMNE is a centre-right, populist and nationalist party though it favours Macedonian membership in the EU and NATO. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski won an overall majority in the 2008 elections but governs with the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), one of the parties representing Albanians who make up 25% of the population (and probably more now). The DUI is led by former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti, whose NLA fought the Macedonian army in the 2001 civil war until the Ohrid agreements of 2001 re-established peace. The opposition is formed by the left-wing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), which governed for all but four years (1998-2002) between 1992 and 2006. The SDSM’s current boss, Branko Crvenkovski, served as President once and Prime Minister twice most recently between 2002 and 2004. The SDSM is joined in opposition by the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which governed with Gruevski between 2006 and 2008.
The SDSM walked out of Parliament in January, protesting a 2010 raid on the offices of a private TV company. The powerful media group led by Velij Aramkovski was targeted officially for tax evasion, but unofficially for being critical of the government given that tax fraud is commonplace in Macedonia. Gruevski dissolved Parliament for early elections in a bid to catch the SDSM by surprise. The elections took place in the context of a political crisis but also 30% unemployment, low GDP growth (1.8% in 2010), corruption, violations of civil liberties, an impasse in the name dispute with Greece, ethnic tensions and an FMI “semi-bailout” given to Macedonia without preconditions.
Turnout was 63.5%, up a bit since 2008. Results were:
VMRO-DPMNE 38.98% (-9.8%) winning 56 seats (-6)
SDSM 32.78% (+9.14%) winning 42 seats (+15)
DUI 10.24% (-2.58%) winning 15 seats (-3)
DPA 5.89% (-2.37%) winning 8 seats (-3)
NDR 2.67% (+2.67%) winning 2 seats (+2)
VMRO-NP 2.51% (+2.51%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Gruevski’s gamble to take the SDSM by surprise didn’t work out entirely. The governing party lost nearly 10% of the vote, though still holds 56 seats (45.5%). On this front, it might have fallen victim to the poor economic situation and the impasse in the naming dispute with Greece. The opposition still needs to regain credibility with voters if it wants to govern, given that Crvenkovski had to deal with similar problems and got no further than Gruevski at solving them. Still, the SDSM has gained significantly. Both the BDI and DPA lost ground, a phenomenon observed in the 2009 presidential election, but the ethnic Albanian Demokracie e Re whose candidate took 15% then won a pitiful 1.76%. The National Democratic Revival, another Albanian party, took 2.7% of the vote but seemingly a part of the total Albanian electorate abandoned the main Albanian parties, maybe in favour of the SDSM which has managed to emerge as the only alternative in an increasingly bi-polarized political system.
The overseas results tell us why the government gave the handful of voters living outside Macedonia three seats: the VMRO-DPMNE won between 57% and 95% of the vote in the three constituencies for Macedonians abroad.
A continuation of the VMRO-DPMNE/DUI coalition is assured a majority, with 71 seats. Relations, however, might be strained between the two after the DUI led violent protests to the construction of a controversial building for the Culture Ministry in Skopje.