Macedonia is getting ready to elect a new parliament on 15 September 2002.
It is the fourth election since Macedonia declared its independence, and will be the first using proportional representation.
Population: 2 million
Voting population: 1.6 million
Previous elections: 1998, 1994, 1990
Parliament mandate: 4 years
120 representatives in 6 constituencies elected in one round
Under a new law passed in June this year, there will be greater voter security, and an increased police presence around polling stations.
Women's participation will also be increased with female candidates required to make up 30% of each list.
The legislative threshold for winning seats is reduced to 3% from the previous 5%.
In a recent poll, the main opposition left-wing SDSM Party emerged as favourite to win.
According to a survey in July 2002 by the Skopje-based Institute for Democracy, Solidarity and Civic Society, 30.2% would vote for the SDSM, while 13.6% would vote for the VMRO-DPMNE of the ruling right-wing coalition.
Democratic Alternative: 13
LDP and DPM: 4
Socialist Party: 2
Alliance of Roma: 1
The survey suggested that the SDSM was considered more able to deal with the biggest problem in the country - unemployment - and the military crisis than the VMRO-DPMNE.
As in the past, the September general elections will take place under the supervision of the OSCE.
There are two coalitions pitted against each other:
Together for Macedonia - the strongest opposition coalition, it consists of the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic League of Bosniaks, the United Party of Roma, the Democratic Alliance of Vlachs and several other minor parties.
VMRO-DPMNE-LP coalition - ruling coalition consisting of VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation - Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity) and the Liberal Party.
Parties are continuing to hold talks about entering into coalitions with one another.
The following parties are contesting the election:
SDSM: This centre-left party was founded in 1991, and its leader is Branko Crvenkovski. The strongest opposition party, it was in power from 1995 to 1998 under former President Kiro Gligorov.
- VMRO-DPMNE: Founded in 1991, its leader is Ljubco Georgievski. It is the ruling party of the centre-right, but its policies have some rigid left-wing elements. It has been in power since 1998.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP):
Founded in 1997 as a merger of Democratic Party and Liberal Party, the LDP in its present form was set up after a split with LP in 2000. Leader: Risto Penov. Moderate, party of the centre.
- Liberal Party (LP):
Founded in 1990 as the Alliance of Reform Forces of Macedonia, it adopted the name of Liberal Party in 1993, split from merger with LDP in 2000. Leader: Stojan Andov. Junior ruling coalition partner. Self-declared centre party.
- Democratic Alternative (DA):
Leader: Vasil Tupurkovski, entered government as junior coalition partner after elections in 1998, but later left.
- Democratic Centre (DC):
Leader: Radomir Karangeleski. Splinter party of the DA.
- Socialist Party of Macedonia (SPM): Founded in 1990. Leader: Ljubisav Ivanov. Left-wing party, former SDSM coalition partner.
- Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP, PPD in Albanian): Leader: Abdurrahman Haliti. First Albanian party in Macedonia. Former SDSM coalition partner.
- Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA, PDSh in Albanian): Leader: Arben Xhaferri. Largest ethnic Albanian party. VMRO-DPMNE's coalition partner in 1998 elections.
- Democratic Union for Integration (DUI, BDI in Albanian): Leader: Ali Ahmeti. Established after the recent conflict in Macedonia. Ahmeti is the former leader of the ethnic Albanian rebel group - the National Liberation Army (ONA, UCK in Albanian).
- National Democratic Party (NDP, PDK in Albanian): Leader: Kastriot Haxhirexha.
New Democracy (ND), leader: Cedo Petrov.
- VMRO-True Macedonian Reform Option, leader: Boris Stojmenov. Splinter party of the VMRO-DPMNE.
- Democratic Party of Macedonia, leader: Tomislav Stojanovski-Bombaj
- Democratic Alliance, leader: Pavle Trajanov
- Democratic League of Bosniaks, leader: Rafet Muminovic
- United Party of Roma, leader: Nedzet Mustafa
- Democratic League of Turks
- Democratic Alliance of Vlachs