The two presidential candidates that advance to the run-off, Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova and Stevo Pendarovski, had a debate hosted by TV21 that aired this evening. Siljanovska seemed relaxed and confident following her enormous victory in the first round of the elections, when she beat Pendarovski with a more than 2:1 ratio.

During the debate, Pendarovski blamed the large number of candidates – seven in total – which he believes diluted his votes. He repeated his one hope he has to make an upset – to have all the ethnic Albanian voters side with him, while at the same time winning at least some of the Macedonian votes that went to other candidates.

I’m the only of the seven candidates who appealed and always asked for and won votes from all the ethnic communities, said Pendarovski. This flies in the face of another prospect – that some of the Albanian parties, mainly DUI, try to boycott the second round of the elections and make them fail due to low turnout, giving DUI ammunition to ask for changes in the way the President is elected and giving Albanians veto over the decision. Some are even wondering whether SDSM will join this idea for a boycott, even though that would likely demoralize the voters SDSM desperately needs for the general elections.
To this, Siljanovska condemned the idea as “completely contrary to the spirit of parliamentary democracy”. “It is up to the voters to say whether one of us is fit to be President”, Siljanovska said.

Pendarovski tried to turn this unhappy talk for the ruling parties around and actually accused VMRO-DPMNE of promoting boycott, with their insistence that the election is effectively over after the conclusive first round. This prompted a testy exchange in which Siljanovska noted that this twisting of the facts reminds her of the manipulations often being spread from the Interior Ministry, where Pendarovski began his career.

Pendarovski accused Siljanovska of benefitting from the manipulations of this Ministry, alleging that her husband was given a permit to open a duty free shop during the murky first years of independence because of his ties with former Interior Minister Frckovski.

Here you go again. It’s not becoming a President to make things up and to behave in this way. I acknowledged your result, you can at least die hard (be a man), said Siljanovska. Pendarovski sarcastically thanked her on the “die hard” recommendation, as he tried to play down the time he spent in the notorious Ministry.

On the important issue of the constitutional changes, which Bulgaria demands from Macedonia, Siljanovska said that VMRO-DPMNE accepts the EU negotiating framework but not this condition that is tied to it. “We think that with a different good-neighborly interpretation, that the veto power applies when the Copenhagen criteria are in question, we can respect the European fundamental values and principles, but also respect ourselves, she added.