Citizens in North Macedonia concerned about corruption and economic development, have high expectations for Euroatlantic integration.
Skopje, North Macedonia: A nationwide National Democratic Institute (NDI) poll and focus group series in North Macedonia has highlighted citizen concerns about domestic issues like corruption and their continued support for reforms that move the country closer to the European Union (EU). Nearly 6 in ten citizens believe that the 2018 Prespa Agreement with Greece that changed the constitutional name of the country was necessary for Euroatlantic integration. The findings also underscore a general sentiment that there is a lack of progress in the country (74% of ethnic Macedonians, 57% of ethnic Albanians)
NDI conducted the research in February/March 2020, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Macedonia’s formal entry, on March 27, 2020, into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union decision, on March 24, 2020, to commence membership negotiations with North Macedonia. The research was conducted in a pre-election period with parliamentary elections slated for April 12. In mid-March, the elections were postponed to an unspecified date in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.81 percent.
The research revealed that, despite the delay in starting EU accession talks, voters remain strongly supportive (82%) of North Macedonia joining the union. The voters also expressed that the delay in starting EU accession talks raised awareness among citizens that North Macedonia must complete more reforms to become a genuinely qualified candidate.
Around three in 10 respondents expressed support for the Prespa Agreement, which led to the constitutional name change of the country. Fifty-eight (58) percent agreed that the Prespa Agreement was a necessity to move the country toward Euroatlantic integration.
“Citizens of North Macedonia want the government to root out corruption and address economic challenges,” said Robert Benjamin, NDI’s Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe. “The Prespa Agreement is largely seen in the context of North Macedonia’s Euroatlantic integration, and people expect their leaders to follow through in securing the country’s future in Europe.”
Respondents expressed a lack of confidence in the political and governing leadership in the country. The highest level of trust, placed in the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, registered at 35%. The lowest confidence level is in the judicial branch (with the courts receiving 12% of confidence). As for political party preferences, 23% planned to vote for the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), among which 90% expressed firm support. Twenty (20%) planned to vote for the VMRO-DPMNE coalition, with 94% certainty among them.
Citizens expressed a range of concerns about the election process, including a belief the elections are wasteful and divisive, and only benefit corrupt politicians. Slight majorities felt confident that elections would be conducted in a free and fair manner (52%) but that, at the same time, disinformation could impact the election outcome (54%).