One of the most stinging defeats for SDSM came in the region of Bitola, Macedonia’s second city which the left wing party took over from VMRO-DPMNE in 2016 and won with a nearly two to one ratio in 2017.

Now Bitola swung back to narrowly support VMRO presidential candidate Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova over Stevo Pendarovski. It’s not so much that Siljanovska gained much support in the city, but the SDSM votes were cut in half between October 2017 and April 2019.

A former SDSM activist in Bitola, Dusko Ilievski, accused his old party of bribing voters in the region through public sector jobs offers and grants offered from state owned companies in the villages around the REK Bitola power plant. And still where the ruling party was allegedly offering the grants went mostly for VMRO.

Ilievski shared a photograph of the local results, side by side with a collage of main SDSM leaders in the region with a comment “you ruined the party in two short years”. This included SDSM member of Parliament Aleksandar Kiracovski, who is seen as the leading distributor of public sector jobs for party loyalists – a practice deeply resented by independent voters which has often proven to be a net negative for the party practicing it.