Alexis Tsipras congratulates North Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev on election victory

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Greece’s main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras congratulated North Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev for his electoral win yesterday, describing it as a “message of brave progressive forces” against nationalism.

“Thanks to your efforts, the message of brave progressive forces that fight against nationalism, for social justice and peace in our region, became stronger today. A message not just for the Balkans, but for all of Europe,” he said on his official Twitter account.

The pro-western Social Democrats leader secured victory by a mere 10,000 votes. With 94% of ballots counted the Social Democrats had received 36%, less than two percentage points ahead of its close rival.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev takes a selfie with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras before their meeting on April 2, 2019. Robert Atanasovski – AFP/Getty Images

“You are winners, be proud. Progress has won,” Zaev told supporters, who were surrounded by party officials wearing protective masks.

The 45-year-old leader promised to impose policies to fast-track the country’s EU accession hopes. This was also the first election since the nation agreed to change its name, adding a geographical qualifier of “north” to Macedonia, in an attempt to satisfy Greek demands.

Zaev had been the architect of the Prespa accord struck with Athens’ leftist Syriza government two years ago, which ended the naming dispute.

“Zaev managed to win the elections despite changing the name of the country,” said Eva Ellereit, the resident representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung German political foundation. “Voters clearly want to see what he can put together now and how he can continue the pro-European reform agenda.

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