Greece’s neighbors are caught up in pre-election fever. North Macedonia will hold a presidential election on April 21 which would, in theory, not carry too much significance had Prime Minister Zoran Zaev not tied his government’s life expectancy to the election performance of the left-wing ruling Social Democratic Union’s party candidate Stevo Pendarovski, who garnered 25 percent over the nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate Gordana Siljanovska Davkova’s 22.4 percent in the first round.
In a recent televised debate, Zaev supported the name deal signed between Athens and Skopje, stressing that it will open the former Yugoslav republic’s path to NATO and European Union membership. Meanwhile, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski repeated his claims that the so-called Prespes deal is harmful to the country’s national interests. According to Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Mickoski was not clear about whether he will respect or challenge the accord if his party comes to power. Ring a bell?
Meanwhile, Turkey is holding crucial local elections on Sunday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to suffer large defeats, especially in large urban centers. As a result, he appears to be conjuring up imaginary security threats in a bid to rally his disgruntled electoral base. Erdogan is also trying to exploit symbols such as the Hagia Sophia to fuel polarization against political rivals while handing out fruit and vegetables to the country’s recession-hit citizens. Sound familiar?
What seems to differentiate Greece is that it is locked in a lengthy campaign period. Apart from that the similarities are considerable: Greece’s main opposition also asserts that the Prespes agreement goes against the national interests, but it does not clarify what its position will be if it comes to power.
For its part, the governing leftist party seems to be busy fueling artificial polarization, appointing political cronies to state jobs, leaking reports about the supposed granting of a one-off Easter bonus (to be understood as the equivalent of fruit and vegetables), lifting a purported ban on chanting a patriotic song about Macedonia, and installing a statue of Alexander the Great in the center of Athens.
Those who take issue with the opposition in North Macedonia and Erdogan’s provocative outbursts should first take a look at partisan politics closer to home.