The leader of North Macedonia’s opposition has called for snap elections after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced his resignation following his party’s poor performance in the second round of mayoral elections in several towns and cities, including the capital, Skopje.
Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) party, told a news conference that VMRO-DPMNE had won a convincing victory in the local elections and said changes for a better North Macedonia are beginning.
He said that after the election success of VMRO-DPMNE on October 31, the next parliamentary elections are “very likely to be early" and predicted a huge win for VMRO-DPMNE.
“The governing party is now delegitimized, and this is a new reality. The best way now are early elections,” Mickoski said.
Zaev congratulated the opposition for its victories in the local elections and took responsibility for the poor showing of his ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). He also resigned as party president but disagreed with Mickoski on the need for early elections.
"I remain of the opinion that there should be no early parliamentary elections," he said at a news conference.
He said he would support a Social Democrat-led government under a new leader.
The current mayor of Skopje, Petre Shilegov, also addressed the news conference at party headquarters, acknowledging the defeat and congratulating Danela Arsovska on her victory. Arsovska will become the capital’s first woman mayor.
Zaev had urged people to vote in large numbers, saying the mayoral race in Skopje was key to implementing his cabinet vision and policies.
Zaev's governing coalition endorsed liberal-democratic principles as well as integration into the European Union and NATO. North Macedonia joined NATO in March 2020, but talks for its entry into the EU hit a dispute with Bulgaria that has stalled progress toward accession.
Official election results were expected to be released on November 1.
Zaev was elected prime minister in 2017 after 10 years of right-wing rule led by Nikola Gruevski, whose government was shaken by a wiretapping scandal revealed by Zaev.
In 2018, Zaev struck a deal with Athens to add the geographical qualifier North to the country's official name in order to distinguish it from the Greek province of Macedonia.
That was a precondition to paving the way for NATO and European Union membership, but the name change did little to settle the grievances of other nations, including Bulgaria, which has sought to block the country's path to joining the EU.