Macedonia officially sets December 11 as election date

By bne IntelliNews October 18, 2016

Macedonian parliament speaker Trajko Veljanovski has officially called an early election for December 11. The vote is seen as a way for the country to overcome the long-running political crisis sparked by a wiretapping scandal in 2015.

The wiretapping scandal disclosed by the the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party in 2015 revealed crime and corruption among senior officials of the governing party. This led to mass protests, which re-erupted in 2016. The election date previously was initially scheduled first for April and then for June this year, but postponed twice on the request of the opposition, as the conditions for a credible vote were not in place. It is still unclear if the election will lead to the stabilisation of the political situation.

The announcement follows the dissolution of the parliament on October 17, which was approved by 110 votes in the 123-seat parliament.

“Macedonia is going to enter a complex period of enhanced activities of the political parties, which I sincerely believe will take place in a matured and dignified ambiance, which will culminate with the election on December 11,” Veljanovski said in a statement released by the parliament on October 18.

The election were called after Macedonia's four main political parties agreed on August 31 that conditions for a free and democratic vote are in place after months of wrangling. 

On October 16, Macedonia’s former prime minister and leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, said that his party will offer the most extensive election programme for the upcoming snap general election and pledged numerous projects to “ease the life of citizens”.

Gruevski, who is on the list of those accused by the special prosecution office, which is tasked to probe crime among senior officials in connection to the wiretapping scandal, said the snap election is “a desired goal” of the party and citizens to put an end to the crisis.

Gruevski stressed that the party needs to emerge as a winner in the upcoming election by gaining 63 seats in the 123-seat parliament and thus to “send a strong message to dark scenarios”.

SDSM’s leader Zoran Zaev also believes his party will win the election, although VMRO-DPMNE is ahead in the polls. The latest poll conducted by the local Pavel Satev Institute shows that the VMRO-DPMNE leads with 25.9%, ahead of the SDSM supported by just 15.7%.

SDSM announced earlier it plans to join forces with other left-wing and centrist parties to form a wide front in the upcoming election.

Small Macedonian political parties are also joining forces to form a third political block in the country ahead of the election. The new alliance is expected to collect votes from disappointed former members or supporters of VMRO-DPMNE.

The new alliance will consist of the Democratic Alliance of Pavle Trajanov, the MОRO Workers' Party, FRODEM - a movement led by former VMRO-DPMNE member professor Jove Kekenovski, and other NGOs.

Recently former Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski said his party United for Macedonia is mulling plans to enter in coalition with right-wing parties. Boskoski was released from prison in Skopje in June 2016 after serving a five-year sentence on charges that he illegally financed an election campaign back in 2011. Boskoski also spent four years in detention in a Dutch prison in Scheveningen for war crimes he allegedly committed during the 2001 conflict in Macedonia. He was released from Scheveningen in 2010.

In Macedonia, there are also two major ethnic Albanian parties, Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), a coalition partner of VMRO-DPMNE, and the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

In the previous snap election held in April 2014, VMRO-DPMNE won 61 seats in the parliament while SDSM was represented by 34 MPs. DUI gained 19 seats in the assembly and the DPA won seven seats.

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