Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani announced today that he is the first presidential candidate who collected the 10,000 signatures necessary to take part in the elections. Osmani is the pick of the ruling DUI party, after its leader Ali Ahmeti decided not to run himself, after initially teasing that idea.

It’s expected that Osmani’s chief rival Arben Taravari will also gather the signatures today or tomorrow. The two will compete for victory among the ethnic Albanian voters, while understanding that they have little chance to reach the run-off, as the candidates of VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM are expected to reach the second round on May 8th. But a good showing for Taravari will show that DUI can be challenged in the general elections, that will also take place on May 8th, and could be sent in opposition after over 20 years in power.

A candidate needs 10,000 signatures from citizens, or 30 votes in Parliament, to submit a nomination. Only VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM can accomplish the second condition, but both parties will begin to collect signatures, to show their strength. This will begin next week, after their candidates, Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova and Stevo Pendarovski, are formally announced during the weekend. In their case, the challenge will be to gather as many signatures as possible in the first day when this process is announced.

Other candidates who are collecting signatures and have several thousands collected already, are Kumanovo Mayor Maksim Dimitrievski with about 6,000 signatures so far, and Levica candidate Biljana Vankovska with about 5,000. Karpos Mayor Stevco Jakimovski also has a realistic chance to accomplish this, while half a dozen no-name candidates are unlikely to get even close. Citizens are allowed to support several candidates, leaving room for, for example, SDSM supporters to also declare for Vankovska, hoping that she will be able to take votes from the VMRO candidate Siljanovska in the first round. VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski warned that some parties are paying for the signatures needed for their candidates.