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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Profile: Branko Crvenkovski
By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-east Europe analyst

Branko Crvenkovski
Mr Crvenkovski won the presidential elections by a clear margin

Macedonian President-elect Branko Crvenkovski is only 41, but he is one of Macedonia's most experienced politicians.

He was first elected Prime Minister of newly-independent Macedonia in 1992. Aged 29, he became Europe's youngest head of government at the time.

Mr Crvenkovski held the premiership until his Social Democratic Union was defeated in the parliamentary elections of 1998.

But he and his party bounced back to office in 2002 - and he is now switching the powerful post of prime minister for the more ceremonial position of president.

However, few observers believe that Mr Crvenkovski will withdraw entirely from day-to-day politics.

Instead, the expectation is that he will continue to have a very powerful influence over government - in effect, he will become a backseat driver.

A fresh face

Mr Crvenkovski's initial rise to the top had much to do with the turmoil in Macedonia in the early 1990s, when the republic gained its independence from the old Yugoslavia.

Macedonia was steered through those troubled waters by the veteran communist-era politician, President Kiro Gligorov.

To demonstrate to a sceptical public that the communists had genuinely committed themselves to democracy, they sought a fresh face to project the image of change.


So the young Mr Crvenkovski, then a recently-elected member of parliament, was chosen to lead their party when it was transformed into the Social Democratic Union in 1991.

Until now he has never relinquished that post.

A year later he was elected prime minister during a prolonged government crisis.

But in the first half of the 1990s, real authority remained with the septuagenarian President Gligorov, not Mr Crvenkovski - who was less than half the president's age.

The practical transfer of power came in late 1995 following an assassination attempt that seriously injured Mr Gligorov.

Strengths and weaknesses

Mr Crvenkovski's premiership produced mixed results.

His level-headed policies kept Macedonia out of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and they led to improved relations with Macedonia's neighbours, including Greece.

Meanwhile, at home he managed to defuse - though not eliminate - the tensions between Macedonians and the sizeable ethnic Albanian minority.

Ethnic Albanian soldier, Macedonia
Mr Crvenkovski saw out the 2001 conflict between ethnic Albanian militants and security forces
Mr Crvenkovski's record on the economy during the 1990s - and again over the past 18 months - has less successful.

His administration's reforms, including its privatisation policy, have been viewed as half-hearted.

And their implementation has been mired in allegations of corruption.

By contrast, Mr Crvenkovski has come into his own at times of crisis.

He kept his nerve at a particularly dangerous time during the six-month conflict between ethnic Albanian militants and Macedonian security forces in 2001.

He was a steadying influence over the course of events.

His party joined a coalition of national unity for a while. It then helped shore up the Ohrid accords which brought the fighting to an end.

The way ahead

Since 2002 Mr Crvenkovski has been working on implementing the Ohrid agreement by giving ethnic Albanians more collective rights.

He has also been pushing forward the European integration agenda.

Last month he submitted Macedonia's formal application to join the EU.

European flags
One of Mr Crvenkovski's priorities is to bring his country closer to the EU

As president-elect, he has said his priorities are to bring his country closer to the EU and to consolidate the Ohrid accords.

Mr Crvenkovski is a strong leader who is not keen on delegating too much power.

The Social Democratic Union has remained a highly-centralised party while Mr Crvenkovski has combined the positions of prime minister and party leader.

Mr Crvenkovski is unlikely to want to relinquish all his authority when becomes president.

It is expected that he will exercise considerable influence as head of state - somewhat in the mould of former President Gligorov.

Indeed, to prevent a possible rival emerging, he may now insist that the posts of prime minister and leader of the Social Democrats should be split between two successors.

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