Stevo Pendarovski has been inaugurated as the new president of North Macedonia, calling for “reconciliation” in a deeply divided society.
In his inauguration speech before parliament on May 12, Pendarovski promised he will serve all citizens and said, “It is time to heal open wounds from our recent past and to really start civil reconciliation.”
“There are so many divisions, especially political,” he said.
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Kosovo, as well as Pendarovski’s predecessor, former president Gjorge Ivanov.
Pendarovski told lawmakers that the country will have to tackle two priorities: economic development and the fight against “corruption, crime, and nepotism.”
He said he will lobby European Union leaders to approve the opening of North Macedonia’s accession talks in June.
Pendarovski, backed by North Macedonia’s ruling Social Democratic Union (SDSM), won the presidential election runoff on May 5 with nearly 52% of the vote.
Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, the candidate favored by the main conservative opposition VMRO DPMNE party, had 45%.
Turnout was less than 47%.
Pendarovski, a former political-science professor, has strongly supported the so-called Prespa deal signed with Greece last year to change the country’s name.
Siljanovska-Davkova has been critical of it, though the opposition has said it would not cancel the accord. She is also a strong proponent of EU and NATO integration.
The signing of the historic agreement with Greece changed the country’s name to North Macedonia and ended a decades-long dispute that had blocked the Balkan state’s path to NATO and the EU.
Ivanov, who ended his second and last five-year presidential term on May 12, was a fierce opponent of the deal.
Some information for this story came from AP.