North Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy. Parliament consists of 120 members elected every four years through a proportional model with closed lists. There are six electoral units; each represents a certain territorial area of the country that elects 20 representatives.
The majority of MPs, at least 61, appoint the president of the government, or prime minister, and his ministers, while the mandate of the newly elected governments, which is more ceremonial in nature, is granted by the state President. The mandate recipient is the politician who has the support of at least 61 MPs and is usually the president of the party that holds most seats in parliament, although there have been exceptions.
The state President is elected every five years in direct elections usually held in two rounds if no candidate in the first round wins more than half of the votes of all citizens with the right to vote. The electoral roll contains about 1.8 million voters.
The President is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and has a few, limited duties in the sphere of diplomacy. He also has a controlling role over parliament, as he has the right not to sign a law voted by the deputies. However, if parliament passes the same law again, the President is obliged to sign it.
Governments have always been formed of coalitions, composed of several parties, or party blocs. It is an unwritten rule that the second-largest coalition partner in government comes from the bloc of ethnic Albanian parties – a practice that has been maintained since 1991.
Decisions in parliament that affect minority ethnic communities are made under the so-called Badenter majority system; they must represent a majority of votes of MPs from the non-Macedonian ethnic communities.
Judges and prosecutors are chosen by special councils, while the composition of the councils is chosen in an inclusive manner. This system should, in theory, reduce the influence of the current political majority in the parliament, and involve the professional community more in the selection and control of the work of judges and prosecutors. However, even with this model, the political elites often find ways to influence the councils and so indirectly influence the judiciary and the public prosecutor’s office.
The public prosecutor, on the other hand, is elected by the parliament on the proposal of the government.
The political authorities have regularly tried to control the narrative in the media, and have often succeeded in this through subtle corruption of the most powerful media. This practice was most pronounced between 2006 and 2017.
After the serious political crisis and change of government in 2017, things took a turn for the better in terms of media freedom. However, political-party influence and clientelism have remained big problems affecting the Macedonian media landscape.
The watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders, in its 2023 report on North Macedonia, noted that the media can still be subject to pressure from the authorities, politicians and businessmen. It has also highlighted the strong political-party influence and polarization reflected in the media.
“The two largest parties (both the one in power and the opposition) have created parallel media systems on which they exert their political and economic influence,” said Reporters Without Borders.
On the other hand, despite the promises made before the government change in 2017, personnel and structural changes in the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services and in the Program Council of the public broadcaster MRT did not take place. This has created an impression – shared by Reporters without Borders – that the public broadcaster lacks editorial independence.
Reporters Without Borders says it is problematic that this service is not financially independent, which is a result of the suspension of the broadcasting tax in 2017, leaving MRT to be financed directly from the government budget.