Macedonia will hold Presidential elections this weekend. No news there. But here’s the interesting thing: recent polls suggest that an ethnic Albanian candidate, Imer Selmani, has a decent chance of making it past the first round. If so, he’d become the first ethnic Albanian to enter the runoff for Macedonia’s Presidency.
Why is this even possible? Well, to make a long story short, all the other major candidates have managed to make themselves look like idiots. They’ve traded stupid accusations and name-calling, while Selmani has managed to remain above the fray. It doesn’t hurt that he’s young, good-looking, and speaks perfect Macedonian.
Let’s be clear: even if Selmani makes it to the runoff round — unlikely, but possible — he’s not going to become President. That would require between a quarter and a third of Slav Macedonians to vote for an Albanian. This is not going to happen.
That said, there are some interesting stories like this one:
Several Orthodox Christian believers from Macedoniaâ€™s central town of Negotino, worried they would be committing a sin if they vote for Muslim candidate Imer Selmani in this Sunday’s presidential elections, have asked, and got the blessing to do so from their local priest…
â€œSince I consider myself to be a big believer, and my fellow citizens know me as one, I consulted my priest in order not to make a mistake, since Imer Selmani is a Muslim,â€ said one Negotino resident to the local ”Dnevnik” newspaper.
He said that he is honestly considering voting for Selmani because, â€œunlike the rest of the candidates, he [Selmani] has insulted no one during the campaignâ€…
According to the newspaper more and more people from this mainly Orthodox town populated with ethnic Macedonians are considering voting for the ethnic Albanian Selmani, comparing him to Barack Obama who became the first US president with an African American background.
Again: it isn’t going to happen. But it’s interesting that Selmani is trying hard to reach out to the Slav Macedonians. He’s holding rallies in non-Albanian areas and conducting most of his campaign in Macedonian rather than Albanian. He’s probably doing this as part of a complex power play within the Albanian community — I’m not even going to try to explain the interaction among the Albanian parties, because I don’t understand it myself — but still: just the attempt is fascinating. It’s something that hasn’t been seen in the region since Yugoslav days.
It’ll be very interesting to see how it plays out. Round I is on Sunday; watch this space.
[Update, Monday the 23rd]: Nope — Selmani got dinged in the first round. Third place.