“The Parliament was disbanded in February and we’re reaching peak election campaign time,“ begins Gjorgji Georgievski, Partner at ODI Law in North Macedonia. “Election day is April 12, and the heat is on.“ Georgievski believes that the election between the ruling Social Democrats and the right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party is going be tight.
“It is very, very difficult to predict what will happen with these elections,“ Georgievski says, reporting that VMRO-DPMNE, which was the ruling party before the Social Democrats, has lost the faith of the people, while the ruling party, “hasn’t really implemented any meaningful reforms in the past four years.“ According to him, whichever party wins, it will do so by a narrow margin. “VMRO-DPMNE won 51 seats in the previous parliamentary elections – to Social Democrats’ 49 – but they failed to strike a coalition deal. These elections are likely to have a similar outcome, in terms of seat distribution,“ he says, adding that as a result, the elections will most likely not bring about much change.
“One of the final things the previous Parliament did was enact a new data protection act, which mirrors the GDPR," Georgievski says, noting that the new act provides for harsher maximum financial punishments – up to 4% of the company's yearly turnover, just like the GDPR. “The new act has been in play since February 24 with a transitional period of 18 months so that businesses can adjust.“
“What didn’t make it past Parliament, and is very important, is the new payment systems framework,“ Georgievski states. The new framework would harmonize the law of North Macedonia with that of the EU – in particular the Payment Services Directive 2. “It would enable the country to have a FinTech market, would liberalize payments, and would introduce open banking,“ he says. “The new Parliament – whichever party wins – will likely pass this first thing."
However, what may change, depending on who wins the elections, is the legal status of medical cannabis in the country. “This was a very hot topic in North Macedonia over the past few years,“ Georgievski says, reporting that there are “45-50 companies registered to do business in this area, along with many more that are ready to invest.“ The problem for many of these companies is that they lack a Good Manufacturing Practice certificate. “Without the GMP these companies are precluded from exporting or selling their stock – which leaves a lot of unusable cannabis laying around, so some of these producers teamed up and started organizing protests trying to pressure the Government to pass new legislation which would enable them to export cannabis like a flower.“ Georgievski reports that the Government failed to enact a law before the Parliament disbanded, making the outcome of the elections especially important. “If the Social Democrats win and form a coalition, this act will pass for sure, but if VMRO-DPMNE wins, they may feel differently about the issue.“ Georgievski reports that the cannabis industry holds great potential for North Macedonia and could lead to “staggering growth of the economy.“