The ruling SDSM party announced this evening that it will nominate Stevo Pendarovski in another attempt to have him elected President. SDSM held its convention in the Hilton hotel in Skopje this evening and decided that Pendarovski will be its joint candidate, nominated with the support of the DUI party.

Pendarovski is a former Interior Ministry official who was adviser to Presidents Boris Trajkovski and Branko Crvenkovski, as well as head of the State Electoral Commission during the chaotic 2004 elections following Trajkovski’s death when Crvenkovski was elected. He ran on the SDSM ticket in 2014, but lost to incumbent President Gjorge Ivanov. He lately served as coordinator for NATO membership in the Zoran Zaev Government.

He is seen as the candidate of the SDSM “urban” wing, as opposed to the other much rumored candidate – current Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, who is is seen as more of a Zaev loyalist. Other potential candidates included Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov.

This time Pendarovski will face professor Gordana Siljanovska, who is the candidate of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party. Pendarovski should get the support of smaller SDSM coalition partners like the Liberal-Democratic Party, but also, and more importantly, of the SDSM ethnic Albanian partner DUI and smaller Albanian parties in the ruling majority. The two main opposition Albanian parties – BESA and Alliance of Albanians, are expected to support their own candidate Blerim Reka in the first round of the elections scheduled for April 21st. The second round, when the two leading candidates advance to a run-off, should be held on May 5th.