🇸🇾🇲🇰Election Round-Up: Syria and North Macedonia

Hello! Welcome to another election round-up, where today we’ll dissect what went down in Syria and North Macedonia over the past week. There were no surprises in the Middle East as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Ba’ath Party continued its rule in a lopsided vote that was only held in 70 percent of the country. The country is still at war, so it’s debatable how credible the results actually are. And the future of North Macedonia is also uncertain as it awaits which of its two largest parties is able to form a coalition government after no majority was produced.

Before we get to it, I need to thank ya’ll for making this week’s podcast with Cass Sunstein my most popular episode to date. Cass is a professor at Harvard University specializing in behavioural economics, and we discussed his influential book, Nudge, in which he will absolutely blow your mind. Check out the episode immediately below, and consider syncing all episodes to wherever you listen to podcasts.

#80 — Cass Sunstein

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Syria: Assad’s Ba’ath Party Extends Rule

Assad’s Ba’ath Party and its allies won 177 of the 250 parliamentary seats available. However, there’s three crucial caveats to Sunday’s results, two more obvious than the other. Firstly, only people in government-controlled areas and areas where it has partial control were allowed to vote. Secondly, and we don’t need to labour this point, but we’re still in a pandemic, which will have undoubtedly had an impact. And lastly, Syria is still in the thick of a civil war, which is ongoing since the pro-democracy uprising against Assad in 2011. To date, 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country, 6.2 million have been internally displaced, and almost 600,000 people have died. All of this led to a turnout of just 33 percent, down from 57 percent in 2016, according to commission head Samer Zamreeq.

Those who have watched Once Upon a Time in Iraq will be familiar with the Ba’ath Party that was dominant under Saddam Hussein, and was the country’s ruling party between 1963 and 2003. Ba’athism is an Arab nationalist movement that dates back to the first half of the 20th century. The party was dismantled by U.S.-led forces and was absent in the first election after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. Over the past decade, ISIS has absorbed many of its followers, and across the border in Syria, the movement is still very much alive under Assad.

Syria Profile

What Next for Syria?

Well isn’t that the golden question? It would be more objective of me to say who the f*ck knows (*shrug emoji*). I could write multiple books on the past decade inside Syria, and still not cover everything in the detail that’s needed. So let’s instead watch the video below, which is the best I found at explaining what’s happening and between who. The Syrian Civil War is now in its 10th year, and as you’ll quickly realize, there is no end in sight…

North Macedonia

Moving to North Macedonia now who held its first national poll since it changed its name from Macedonia early last year. For almost 30 years, the country was at odds with Greece over its former name, Macedonia, which shared its name with a Greek region of the same title and home to Alexander the Great of Macedon. Greece had long viewed its neighbours’ refusal to change its name as territorial ambitions and a big old sign of disrespect. As a result, Greece repeatedly blocked North Macedonia’s attempts to join the European Union. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how rare such an occasion is — one country changing its name because another country didn’t like it. Can you even imagine the U.S. or the UK doing such a thing? Anyway, to the election results…

The pro-Western Social Democrats (SDSM) emerged as the strongest party after winning 36 percent of the votes, after around 94 percent of the ballots had been counted. But in close second were the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE (ain’t even gonna bother spelling that one out) who secured 34 percent. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev will have breathed a small sigh of relief after he resigned as prime minister in January over being rebuffed by the EU from joining the union, despite changing his country’s name in order to do so. French president Emmanuel Macron, who’s in shtook of his own back home, led a cohort of countries that vetoed North Macedonia’s membership. The country how heads toward tense talks over the coming days and weeks to form a coalition government…

North Macedonia Profile

What Next for North Macedonia?

Like most countries around the world, the Macedonians must get a handle on the Covid-19 pandemic that has refused to go away. Cases have surged to record levels in the past six weeks. Unlike most other countries, the country’s political future is simultaneously being written, and it could go either way. If the SDSM manages to win the support of the kingmaker Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the largest of the ethnic Albanian parties who won an invaluable 15 seats, then membership to the EU will look increasingly likely, so long as it appeases the cautions of the French-led cohort and maintains its new positive relationship with Greece. Alternatively, if VMRO-DPMNE win DUI’s support, then the country can kiss goodbye its attempts to join the EU for at least the next four years.

Source: Worldometers