Hybrid Warfare And The Importance Of Elections In Geopolitics: The Case Of North Macedonia – Analysis



In the labyrinthian Balkan landscape, North Macedonia emerges as a country of significant geopolitical importance. Tucked amidst mountains and steeped in history, its strategic value far surpasses its modest size. Serving as a crucial land bridge, North Macedonia connects the trade and infrastructure networks between South-Eastern and Central Europe. This geographical advantage positions it as a key player in facilitating trade and fostering development across the region.

Officially known as the Republic of North Macedonia, this landlocked nation, with a population predominantly composed of Macedonians and a significant Albanian community, was established as a republic within the former Yugoslavia on August 2, 1944. It later gained independence through a referendum held on September 8, 1991, solidifying its status as an independent republic.

Serbia during the 90s, when Yugoslavia was collapsing and the Serbian state apparatus appropriated from the remnants of former Yugoslavia, was engaged with all its mechanisms to occupy Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and North Macedonia (at that time known as Macedonia or FYROM). However, North Macedonia escaped without a war, not because no one there wanted it, but because the interests were different.

Immediately after the referendum and the declaration of independence of North Macedonia, Russia became the first permanent country in the Security Council (SC) of the United Nations (UN) to recognize its independence in early 1992, ahead of the United States of America (USA) and every major country in Western Europe. On the other hand, this country would not be attacked by Serbia due to the fact that:

  • Serbia was involved in many wars,
  • It did not want to expand the war zone where there were even more Albanians and
  • There were other plans for North Macedonia and Greece.

Milosevic, during his travel in the Greek Riviera, proposed to Greece to create a confederation between Serbia – Macedonia – Greece, an idea that was liked by Macedonian politicians, including Gligorov.

Later in 1994, Greece, with Western insistence, would reject this idea, then Gligorov would do the same, but the Gligorov’s refusal almost cost him with his life, even though it did cost him with mutilations to his eyes and face. The assassination attempt circumstances, we will explain in another paper.

North Macedonia’s westward journey has been involved in a crossroads that has marked major clashes between pro-Western and pro-Russian and pro-Serbian forces. In 2017, in the process of voting for the new government in the Assembly of North Macedonia, which culminated in the ouster from power of VMRO-DPMNE, which had a more pro-Russian and pro-Serbian approach, and its replacement by SDSM, happened riots with the aim of an electoral country coup. This transition brought to view clear goals for damaging the democratic process, with violent incidents that occurred inside and outside the Assembly, leaving behind injured Albanian and Macedonian politicians, as well as citizens. This period was characterized by a marked Russo-Serbian influence in domestic politics, witnessing high levels of infiltration.

But while the 2016 elections brought a change of clear approaches in the foreign policy of North Macedonia, and during this period this country managed to solve the name problem with Greece, join NATO and take other steps towards the European Union (EU) and get closer to solving the problems also with Bulgaria, as it seems the new elections held at the end of April and beginning of May will be no less challenging than those of 2016.

During the work, we refer to North Macedonia with its new official name even when it comes to the period before the Prespa agreement, this is because we do not want create problems in reading.

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the Russian and Serbian influence in North Macedonia, mainly in the last two decades, including the current situation. To identify the impact of the 2016 election process and what is happening now, in the geopolitics of this country.

The research question of the paper is: What are the clashess and collaborations of North Macedonia with Russia and Serbia in terms of geopolitical influence and the role of electoral elections in these conflicts?

The dependent variable is: The geopolitical influence of Russia and Serbia in North Macedonia.

Hypothesis: The influence of Russia and Serbia in North Macedonia is with considerable impact factor in the country’s politics and development, through efforts to hinder North Macedonia’s cooperation and integration with Western countries, including political subjects, various organizations and electoral elections.

The research method of this study is built on a wide range of information sources and analytical techniques. The main focus of this method is on:

  • The collection and analysis of the actions of Serbia and Russia against North Macedonia.
  • Geopolitical analysis
  • Analysis of the elections and comparison of the change in the geopolitical course.
  • Analysis of hybrid warfare.

Through this research method, it is intended to use a transdisciplinary approach to deeply understand the complex dynamics of conflict and rivalry in North Macedonia, integrating information from different sources and using appropriate analytical techniques to achieve a complete and comprehensive understanding of the situation.

The Octopus Institute also wrote an e-mail to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia dated 29.02.2024, but we have not received answers to our questions related to the topic examined in this paper.

Theoretical Framework: Understanding The Influence Of Russia And Serbia In North Macedonia

This paper from the theoretical framework can be examined in the context of the political, economic and social influence of Russia and Serbia on North Macedonia. Therefore, to understand this complex dynamic, we rely on three prominent theoretical perspectives in international relations: Realism, Liberal Institutionalism, and Social Constructivism.

Grounded in the notion that states are rational actors driven by self-interest and power (Kunz & Morgenthau, 1948), Realism posits that international politics is a competitive struggle for advantage. In this context, Russia and Serbia, with their respective ambitions and historical ties to North Macedonia, could utilize economic tools or political pressure to advance their national interests. Russia, for instance, might leverage its energy exports to influence North Macedonia’s foreign policy choices, aligning them with Moscow’s strategic goals (e.g., Mearsheimer, 2001). Similarly, Serbia, with its shared Slavic heritage and cultural influence, could exert pressure on North Macedonia’s government through political maneuvering or appeals to ethnic nationalism (e.g., Waltz, 1979).

In contrast to the power-centric view of Realism, Liberal Institutionalism emphasizes the role of international institutions and norms in shaping state behavior (Keohane, 1984). This perspective suggests that North Macedonia’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration, particularly membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO, act as a countervailing force against Russian and Serbian influence. By adhering to the democratic norms and institutional frameworks of these organizations, North Macedonia seeks to strengthen its sovereignty and economic development, potentially distancing itself from the influence of regional powers with less democratic agendas (Moravcsik, 1997).

Moving beyond material power dynamics, Social Constructivism highlights how shared understandings and social processes shape international relations (Wendt, 1995). This theory sheds light on the influence of pro-Russian and pro-Serbian media narratives in North Macedonia. These narratives, disseminated through various media outlets, can influence public opinion and political discourse, potentially fostering a sense of cultural and historical affinity with Russia or Serbia. By shaping perceptions of national identity and regional security threats, these narratives can indirectly influence North Macedonia’s foreign policy decisions, even if not directly dictated by Russia or Serbia.

Each of these theoretical perspectives offers valuable insights into the influence of Russia and Serbia on North Macedonia. Realism highlights the importance of national interests and power dynamics. Liberal Institutionalism emphasizes the constraining and enabling effects of international institutions and norms. Social Constructivism sheds light on the role of shared understandings and media narratives in shaping foreign policy. By employing these frameworks in a complementary manner, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of the complex factors shaping North Macedonia’s international relations.

Toward “Serbianization”

Russian spies and diplomats have been involved in a nearly decade-long [presently, especially after 2008] effort to spread propaganda and provoke discord in Macedonia as part of a region-wide endeavor to stop Balkan countries from joining NATO. This conclusion comes from a tranche of intelligence documents obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and partners NOVA TV and the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) (Dojčinović, 2017).

Gas has been a key factor of Russia’s influence in North Macedonia wanting to create a “state of exclusive dependency on Russian policy”.

According to leaked documents, Russian agents worked to recruit members of the Macedonian army and interior ministry officials to create a “critical mass of military trained persons” who would be used in certain situations to support Russia’s interests”.

Russia has committed to finance the media in North Macedonia, including those against the Albanians, then it has opened intelligence bases in the name of honorary consulates in Bitola and Ohrid, through the Serbian church it has committed to push Pan-Slavic ideas, it has financed a cultural center in Skopje and the construction of crosses and churches, including restoration according to the Russian style. It has created about 30 associations of friendship between Russia and North Macedonia and apparently these have had an effect where in 2014 North Macedonia does not join with the West in sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine, at the time when Russia annexed Crimea.

VMRO-DPMNE and Nikola Gruevski have been Russia’s “gateway” to North Macedonia, but Gruevski was forced to resign in 2015 after the publication of wiretapping by Zoran Zaev, leader of SDMS, a party with a pro-Western approach.

From 2006 to 2016, under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski, from the VMRO-DPMNE party, there would be a policy that was significantly pro-Russian and pro-Serbian, but we cannot say that its pro-Western advancement including the recognition of Kosovo was deficient.

In the Jasmin Mujanovic book “Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in The Balkans”, he said that Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE they did “attempt to move Macedonia into the realm of one-party rule (Mujanović, 2018)”, and investments of Russia in Western Balkan has “encourages the already latent anti-democratic sentiments of particular elites. Chief among these are the Dodik government in Bosnia and Hercegovina, concretely Republika Srpska, the Vucic government in Belgrade, and Nikola Gruevski and the VMRO-DPMNE in Macedonia (Mujanović, 2018).

Ljubo Georgievski, former prime minister of North Macedonia and founder of VMRO-DPMNE who would later leave this party to create VMRO-NP, also criticized as pro-Bulgarian and who would later receive Bulgarian citizenship, in an interview in 2015, he said that:

“…the party that convinces the Macedonian citizen that it protects his identity from the Greeks and Bulgarians, on the other hand, makes the serbianisation of the Republic of Macedonia. I think that at this moment we have an open serbianization of the Macedonian people and I think it is a bit of a shame if 80 percent of us vote for the merger with Serbia tomorrow in the referendum” (Mitevska, 2015).

After the wiretap “Zaev bombs” published by Zoran Zaev, the fall of Gruevski and new elections, the leader of the social democratic opposition Zaev won by creating a government with two Albanian parties.

The wing of VMRO-DPMNE, the pro-Russians and pro-Serbs expressed their dissatisfaction on May 27 by attacking the parliament, where Zoran Zaevi, Ziadin Sela, Talat Xhaferi were hit, and about 102 people were injured in the riots inside and outside the Parliament (Gazeta Shqip, 2017). At least one Serbian agent was identified there (Dojčinović, 2017).

These elections were criticized by Russia for interference by the USA and the EU with the aim of dividing the Balkans and creating “Greater Albania”, claiming that they were actually won by VMRO-DPMNE (BIRN, 2018).

From “Pro-Russian And Pro-Serb” To “Pro-West”

In an April 7 document between senior Macedonian Foreign Ministry official Nenad Kolev and Russian Ambassador Oleg Shcherbak, the ambassador confessed that Russia’s intention was to “create a strip of militarily neutral countries” in the Balkans that includes Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia. Intelligence documents also show the influence of the BIA. Vucic has never declared publicly, but the media supported by Vucic have strongly supported Gruevski and Russia. The documents show that Macedonian counterintelligence agents have been monitoring a BIA operative and embassy official in Skopje, Goran Živaljević, who, according to an estimate, since 2015 has worked to oppose the country’s integration with Europe. (Dojčinović, 2017)

The documents show Živaljević giving instructions to Ivan Stoilković, a pro-Russian Macedonian MP, who is the leader of a VMRO coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Serbs in Macedonia. Živaljević frequently met Stoilković “when making important decisions in the assembly or before meetings of the government,” according to one document. Stoilkoviç was among a number of Balkan politicians who traveled to Moscow to sign a declaration calling for the region to be “militarily neutral,” a position that would preclude an agreement with NATO. Stoilković also met politicians and activists from nearby Montenegro who are opposed to that country joining NATO, included Marko Milačić. (Dojčinović, 2017)

Živlajević and Stoliković were also caught on tape coordinating from Serbia for anti-Zaev propaganda with over 50 audio wiretapping.

But after the corruption scandals that broke out in North Macedonia, the plans of Russia and Serbia took a heavy blow. The Kremlin issued numerous press statements in support of Gruevski, trying unsuccessfully to portray the growing anti-Gruevski sentiment in North Macedonia as “heavy interference from the West” (Noack, 2021).

Zaev’s victory deters the Russian and Serbian influence in Macedonia to some extent, at least by creating a limitation. However, Russia has been effectively engaged in blocking North Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the acceptance of the Prespa agreement (from “Macedonia” to “North Macedonia”) between Greece and North Macedonia over the name issue. Russia, according to the data, has been repeatedly framed in the propaganda to vote against the Prespa agreement in the 2018 referendum. 

At the head of the movement against the referendum was Janko Bacev, leader of Edinstvena Makedoniaj, a Russophile party that supports the ruling party in the Kremlin “United Russia”, which defended the reorientation of North Macedonia towards the Eurasian Economic Union, in which Serbia also participates.

This party has organized panels and seminars with some of the ideologues from Moscow such as Alexander Dugin. In May 2018, 50 party members attended a training by political strategist Leonid Savin (Trpkovski, 2018).

Russia is not simply an opponent of the membership of various countries in the European Union; in fact, it is against their membership in NATO for major strategic and political reasons. In an effort to maintain its influence in the Eastern and Central European region, Russia has made continuous efforts to influence the policies and elections of these countries, trying to prevent their integration into Western structures, such as NATO. This has been a weak point for Russia, as it has faced serious challenges to maintain its dominance in the area.

To oppose NATO membership, Russia has used every possible method, including propaganda, political destabilization, and in some cases the use of secret force. However, its interventions have encountered resistance and counter-responses from other states interested in helping the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region. Thus, while Russia has been determined to overturn the NATO membership process, its efforts have been accompanied by challenges and different responses from Western countries.

Russia’s Commitment To Contain North Macedonia Torwards NATO And The EU

Russia was effectively committed to damaging North Macedonia’s relations with Greece in order to stop the process of improving relations between these two countries and to stop reaching an agreement about the name issue. Russian diplomats were even caught bribing Orthodox clergy (Deutsche Welle, 2018) besides other officials and causing problems in the security of Greece (Benakis, 2018). This problem lead off to the deportation of Russian diplomats from Greece (Nedos, 2018).

In 2018, the then-Russian ambassador to North Macedonia, Oleg Shcherbakov, said that joining the Alliance would have a direct impact on Skopje, as it could turn it into a target for Russian attacks, should Moscow feel threatened (Drapak, 2023).

The agreement process between these two countries did not stop Putin and Lavrov from presenting their frustration publicly.

Before visiting Belgrade, in 2019, Putin had expressed his dissatisfaction with the agreement between Greece and North Macedonia on the name issue. For this, he accused the West of increasing its influence in the Western Balkans.

“The policy of the United States and some other western nations in the Balkans, who seek to assert their dominance in the region, has been a serious destabilising factor. […]”This will eventually increase mistrust and tension in Europe, rather than improve stability”. He also added that the decision of Montenegro to join the western alliance [NATO] in April 2017 had resulted in the country “now going through a period of political instability” (Smith, 2019). At the same time, the foreign ministër of Russia Sergey Lavrov for the North Macedonia issue had said that “Moscow had credible grounds to question the legitimacy of the process by which Macedonia had changed its name” (Smith, 2019).

Gjorgje Ivanov, president of Macedonia at that time, had also refused to sign the agreement between Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for the name issue. (Deutsche Welle, 2018a)

Based on the reporting of Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), one of the richest Russian businessmen, Ivan Savvidi, has given at least 300,000 euros to Macedonians opponents, who were against NATO membership and against the name change. Savvidi was once a member of the Russian parliament and has also lived in Greece. (Cvetkovska, 2018)

Daniel Suter, in a 2020 article for “NATO Review”, argued that: North Macedonia was an example of concerted propaganda, diplomatic and intelligence activities for almost ten years prior to its NATO accession in 2020 [from Russia]. Information activities now focus on presenting the country as a victim of its neighbouring states, Bulgaria and Greece, and accusing the current pro-Western government in Skopje of giving in to Sofia’s demands on the issue of identity (Sunter, 2020).

So, just like in the case between Greece and Macedonia, the same commitment of Russia has continued in the destruction and boosting into conflict between Macedonia and Bulgaria (Европа, 2022).

Moscow has proven skillful in blurring the lines between official and unofficial state actions, often channeling its support through proxies (McBride, 2023) as Serbia and Republika Srpska. Russia’s policy in the region is also about recruiting all sorts of auxiliary support for the Kremlin’s international agenda (Secrieru, 2021)

Serbia, being Russia’s Proxy, has constantly offered various levers against North Macedonia. To show that Serbia is not friendly to North Macedonia, Milos Vucevic, at the time this paper is published, candidate for prime minister nominated by Vucic, the current Minister of Defense of Serbia, also the chairman of the Progressive Party of Serbia after Vucic resigned, in an open threat, for the Pink media said that Montenegro and North Macedonia angered Serbia so much when they recognized the state of Kosovo, that this action has to hit the head as if Ukraine is being hit (Radio Slobodna Evropa, 2023).

Montenegro began to change its political course from the west towards Russia and Serbia from 2020, North Macedonia has had an opposite journey where until 2016 it was actually led by a party which had more pro-Russian and pro-Serbian inclination enough to restrain him towards NATO.

But in this journey towards the west, not only Greece got in the way of North Macedonia, but in 2020 also Bulgaria, which used the right of veto to block North Macedonia from joining the European Union. According to Sofia, the Macedonian language is simply Bulgarian by another name, while North Macedonia does not recognise its common cultural and historical ties with Bulgaria. At the same time, Sofia demands that a Bulgarian minority [approximately 3500] be officially included in the Constitution of North Macedonia. The proposal came from France in June 2023 – during Paris’ EU presidency – offered a series of measures to overcome the current stalemate, [including the constitutional changes related to the recognition of the Bulgarian community as a national minority] measures that were accepted by the Macedonian government, while the opposition rejected them firmly (Samardjiev, 2024).

But even after this compromise with the insistence of the French President, Emanuel Macron, the Bulgarian position seems to be doubtful. Two years after the agreement, the Bulgarian president Rumen Radev with a pro-Russian conviction declared that: “Bulgaria will not allow the legitimization of Macedonianism” (Президент На Република Български, 2022).

In August 2023, Gabriel Escobar, US Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Representative to the Western Balkans, declared that “he had personally talked to Bulgaria’s foreign minister Mariya Gabriel and she had assured him that if North Macedonia did what was outlined in the current agreement, there would be no other conditions set by Bulgaria” (Reed, 2023).

But the French proposal, which became the EU proposal, was not well received by the Macedonian population. According to a survey by IPIS, 70%-80% of citizens are against this proposal and do not want EU membership according to this proposal. (Анкета На ИПИС: Над 70% Од Граѓаните Се Против Францускиот Предлог, 2022)

So, this proposal succeeded in oscillating the road to the EU, as the opinion as a whole is not Eurosceptic, where by 2023, 57% of ethnic Macedonians and 78% of Albanians are in favor of EU membership. (Nikolovski & Kirchner, 2021)

This has directly influenced the rise of the spirit of parties with pro-Russian and Serbian segments such as VMRO-DPMNE or such as declaratively pro-Russian and Serbian that is Levica. It turns out that the Macedonians love the EU, but not under the terms of the agreement with Bulgaria.

Professor Eduard Joseph, comparing Russia’s approach to Ukraine and Bulgaria’s to North Macedonia, says that:

“The connection is the fragility of extreme Bulgarian and Russian nationalism. In each case, national identity is rooted in putative ancient origins, vested in a “lost possession”—Macedonia and Ukraine, respectively. In each case, the nationalist mission is to reassert dominion, over history and language in particular, in a territory that was unjustly removed from its rightful overlord in Sofia and Moscow. In each case, the mere existence of an independent, “artificial” Macedonian or Ukrainian identity is perceived—viscerally and intellectually—as wholesale negation of the authentic Bulgarian or Russian identity. In short, achieving formalized identity submission—vice compromise or respect for differences—is the means for undermining Macedonian and Ukrainian statehood” (Joseph, 2023).

The War In Ukraine And The New Geopolitical Circumstances

The start of the war in Ukraine brought North Macedonia back into the attention. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, North Macedonia has deported and declared non grata Russian diplomats three times. On March 28, 2022, North Macedonia deported five Russian diplomats. (Radio Slobodna Evropa, 2022) On April 15, 2022, it also deported six Russian diplomats and in the third deportation on September 12, 2023, it deported three Russian diplomats. (Radio Slobodna Evropa, 2023b)

North Macedonia for the first time after 17 years, this year will hold regular parliamentary elections which coincided at the same time with the presidential elections. The first round of presidential elections will be held on April 28, while the second round (if no candidate secures more than 50% of the votes) will be held on May 8, the same day as the parliamentary elections.

As it seems, the Russian-Serbian influence is not absent here, as in the case of Montenegro, the slogans of the mobilization in Montenegro to stop the return to power of the Montenegrin nationalists referring to the Democratic Socialist Party created by Djukanovic, the same equivalence is it is also used in North Macedonia, but only with other expressions such as “Elections in North Macedonia – Define the way for the creation of ‘Greater Albania'” (Kosovo Online, 2024).

The two ideologies, or the Two projects, Russky Mir (Russian World) and Serpski Svet (Serbian World) are constantly committed to holding back the Western Balkans towards advancement in the EU and NATO.

Their intention has been and remains to disrupt Western unipolarity at the global level and the Western Balkans. “By backing Serbia, Russia is testing its own desire for a multipolar order, one based on a concert of great powers. At the core of this is an effort by Moscow to overturn the unipolar world order it perceived in the Balkans in the 1990s, and to reaffirm its status as a global great power—a status it feels has been wrongfully denied by the West” (Vuksanovic, 2018).

According to Russian experts, a “concert of powers” – where Russia is one of multiple managers of the Western Balkans – is the only way to escape the current regional rivalry and move towards a better handled multi-stakeholder order (Secrieru, 2018).  

Putin’s autocracy, like the communist ones, cannot be said to be held only by one person and one ideology or party, but relies on a very wide group of actors: the intelligence service, political operatives, oligarchs, various organizations and entities. ultranationalists, state companies, paramilitary hackers including private and illegal mercenary companies, state media and variously funded media, criminals and internet trolls. So, it is a hybrid amalgam of actors who overlap the agenda of the Russian state with the Serbian one. Serbia being Russia’s Proxy perfectly manages to take advantage of the flow of mutual interest with Russia to realize the geopolitics of the Russky Mir (Russian World) and Serpski Svet (Serbian World) plans.

Therefore, the historical, religious, ideological, civilizational and geopolitical complementarity between Russia and Serbia is holistic and real.

Russian-Serbian Influence As A Process Of Failure Of Subjects In Political, Economic And Social Development

Dissatisfaction with the current government, which citizens consider to have no influence in the country’s foreign affairs, and a generally declining trust in the EU, affect political and social processes, opening the doors to external actors such as Russia, China, Türkiye and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf – to exert influence. The disappointment that many citizens in North Macedonia feel towards the EU opens up space for Russia and other external actors in Macedonian society. (Rechica, 2023)

So, to say with citizens words: “In Gruevski’s time, there was stealing, but also building”. One of his major projects was Skopje 2014, an €800mn revamp of the capital — a subject of huge controversy (Dimitrievska, 2024).

A general feeling of stagnation and helplessness seems to have gripped the people of North Macedonia. Most speak of domestic politics with profound contempt. And hardly anyone has anything good to say about the EU any more or expects anything positive to come out of Brussels. Those who can, look for work abroad. The exodus from North Macedonia is staggering: In recent years, the population has shrunk by 10% to about 1.8 million (Brey, 2023).

North Macedonia, as well as its neighboring countries, have fallen into the trap of maintaining big policies and the internal erosion of “usurpocrats”.

The West’s prioritization of stability (Stabiliocracy) over true democratic consolidation has backfired spectacularly. This approach has allowed pro-Western leaders to cultivate “patronage networks” and neglect vital socio-economic reforms, ultimately leading to public disenchantment.

Russia with its historical, religious and cultural ties with several countries of the Western Balkans and especially with Serbia, have capitalized on public dissatisfaction for geopolitical interests. Their influence is manifested not only through possible secret operations, but also through the promotion of stories that resonate with internal complaints.

The 2020 Montenegrin election, which toppled a pro-Western government, serves as a “sharply warning”. While the possible Russian and Serbian intervention deserves vigilance, because the research underlines the role of citizen frustration with “usurpocracy”, corruption and economic stagnation, and this has fueled sentiment against pro-Western parties, giving space to anti-Western parties.

The failure of internal economic development, the battle with Greece and now again with Bulgaria seem to have tired the people in North Macedonia.


Electoral processes have begun to evolve from internal social-political and economic issues to a major force in the formation of politics and geopolitics.

The elections in the USA from 2016 until today, then in Germany, Italy and other European countries show that the ideological changes of the parties are not only appearing as internal changes in economic and social development but also external geopolitical. But these changes are hitting the most third countries. Autocratic regimes such as Russia and Serbia have recognized the potential of electoral processes through hybrid warfare as a weapon to exert influence on fragile democracies, including North Macedonia and Montenegro. This manipulation of democratic processes is a manifestation of hybrid warfare, where political, economic and informational strategies are used to achieve strategic objectives.

Recently, we are witnesses for the statement of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the elections in North Macedonia, clearly demanding to vote for SDSM. This statement of Mr. Scholz is not just a personal preference of his, but a calculated move within a comprehensive strategy to protect the main interests of NATO and the EU in the strategic region of the Western Balkans.

Any change in North Macedonia’s political landscape that does not align with Western interests could potentially create a dangerous anti-Western and quasi-Western axis, including Serbia, Republika Srpska, Montenegro and North Macedonia. This development could have far-reaching implications for the stability and security of the entire region, and thus, for the interests of the West.

In this context, electoral processes have become a critical component of geopolitical influence, forming alliances and influencing international relations. As such, understanding the dynamics of electoral politics in third countries is essential to research into the complexities of the contemporary global order. So we are to the “electoral elections as geopolitics” trend.

Dr. Gurakuç Kuçi

Dr. Gurakuç Kuçi is a Researcher at the Institute for Hybrid War Studies "OCTOPUS" and external collaborator of the Albanian Institute for Geopolitics.

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