bne IntelliNews -
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel of Macedonia's protracted political crisis after key agreements were reached at EU-mediated discussions on July 14, following over five months of heated exchanges
The leaders of the country's four largest political parties reached a deal for the opposition to return to parliament - more than a year after they began a boycott claiming that elections last April were rigged - as well for the appointment of a new government and early elections next year, Richard Howitt, a European Parliament Member from the UK who helped broker the deal, announced on Twitter.
"The prolonged crisis has had grave consequences for the stability of the country, its international standing and its prospects for progress towards European Union membership and it is not an exaggeration to say the timing agreement could pull the country back from the brink,” he later wrote on his Facebook page.
New elections will be scheduled for April 24, 2016, and will be organised by a new government that will not be led by the current prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, which was a key issue demanded by the opposition.
Lawmakers from the largest opposition party, SDSM, will return to parliament in September and will participate in the implementation of the agreement, it was agreed.
“This agreement keeps the door open for the Euro-Atlantic perspective and boosts rule of law reforms,” Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, tweeted.
The four party leaders involved in the negotiations – Gruevski from the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, Ali Ahmeti from its coalition partner the ethnic Albanian DUI, and the opposition's Zoran Zaev from SDSM and Menduh Thaci from the ethnic Albanian DPA – reached an initial agreement
on June 2 to have early elections but have been wrangling over the details ever since.
Zaev said that the resignation of Gruevski will take place before the end of 2015, and that the new government will be elected by January 15, with SDSM and the opposition taking five ministries; SDSM will propose the new ministers of the interior as well as labour and social policy, and in addition will appoint deputy ministers with veto rights in the ministries of finance, agriculture and information society.
The agreement also allegedly envisages the election of a special public prosecutor to investigate information revealed through SDSM’s project "The Truth about Macedonia". In February, Zaev accused Gruevski of having ordered a massive wiretapping campaign that targeted more than 20,000 Macedonians.
Since his first accusations, Zaev has made many more allegations, and has been publishing taped phone conversations concerning, among other things, the current government’s allegedly heavy-handed involvement in the judiciary, media and key appointments.
According to Gruevski, the scandal is a plot by foreign intelligence services, while Zaev claims he received the taped phone conversations from a whistleblower and that the recordings are real.