On March 22nd, Macedonia's voters cast ballots to choose the country's fourth President since its 1991 independence from Yugoslavia. The vote was crucial for the future of this Balkan state, and reaffirms that Macedonia remains on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration, which its people deserve.
In contrast with the June 2008 elections, this round of elections went smoothly, was free of violent incidents, and was deemed to have met most international standards. This demonstrated Macedonia's capacity to conduct successful elections that are free, fair, and transparent.
The United States congratulates Macedonia and its citizens on the March 22nd first round of nationwide presidential and local elections, said U.S. Department of State Acting Spokesman Robert Wood:
"The people of Macedonia deserve credit for coming out to vote in large numbers despite heavy snowfall. The OSCE’s [ODIHR] preliminary assessment is that the elections met OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections. They were well-administered and free of the violence that clouded the parliamentary elections in 2008."
Macedonia is a multi-ethnic country of a little more than 2 million people. It is also one of Europe's poorest countries, with an official unemployment rate of about 35 percent. Membership in the Euro-Atlantic institutions, as well as in global economic structures, is a stated priority for the country's leadership, and it has taken a number of positive steps to qualify. At the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008, Allies agreed to extend an invitation as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute over Macedonia’s name issue has been reached.
We urge the government and other relevant authorities in Macedonia to sustain their efforts this week, so that the second round of polls scheduled for Sunday April 5 can again take place under safe, free, and fair conditions.