Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party says it will join a Social Democrat-led government. The party has again urged President Gjorge Ivanov to give a mandate to the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader to form the new cabinet.
Ivanov has refused to give the mandate to the SDSM’s Zoran Zaev even though he had put together a majority. This intensified the deep political crisis that has persisted since the 2015 wiretapping scandal. Macedonia has been without a new government since the December 11 snap election.
The SDSM has gathered enough signatures from MPs from the DUI and other ethnic Albanian parties represented in the parliament to form a majority. However, Ivanov said on March 1 that he would not entrust the mandate to Zaev, citing the SDSM leader’s acceptance of the platform drawn up by the ethnic Albanian parties which, according to the president, threatens the unitary character of the country. Ivanov fears that the platform, which envisages wider official use of the Albanian language in Macedonia and other concessions to the Albanian minority, could destroy the country’s sovereignty, integrity and independence.
The DUI previously said it would support an SDSM-led majority but had been hesitant about whether to support a minority SDSM-led government or to enter into a coalition.
However, the decision to enter the government led by the SDSM was passed unanimously by the DUI presidency on March 4. This is likely to increase the pressure on Ivanov to reconsider.
Meanwhile, the mass protests that started on February 27 continued in Skopje and other cities in Macedonia over the weekend. Protestors, supported by the VMRO-DPMNE party, are against the ethnic Albanian platform, which seeks more rights for ethnic Albanians. The protests are supported by some renowned Macedonian artists, musicians and actors.
DUI leader Ali Ahmeti said on March 4 that if the president sticks to the decision not to give the mandate to Zaev, other options would be considered like convening the assembly and voting for a new government without a mandate, which is also regulated in the Constitution, according to news agency MIA.
In a party statement on March 5 the DUI said that the new reformist government will work in the spirit of the Ohrid Agreement (signed in 2001 to end a serious inter-ethnic conflict in Macedonia) and will be committed to the rule of law and integration into Nato and the European Union.
DUI gained 10 seats in the 120-seat parliament and with the other two ethnic Albanian parties, Besa and the Alliance for Albanians, supported the runner-up SDSM (49 seats) to form a government. VMRO-DPMNE narrowly won the election (with 51 seats) but failed to secure a majority in the parliament.
Zaev believes he will form the reformist government despite the recent refusal by Ivanov to give him a mandate.
Referring to the VMRO-DPME request for a new snap election, Zaev said it would only deepen the crisis.
“Citizens expect a quick and peaceful transfer of power,” Zaev said in a party statement on March 5.
“We are securing equality and stability, unity not divisions, integration not isolation.” Zaev said.
During her visit to Skopje on March 3, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also urged Ivanov to give the mandate to Zaev in line with the constitution, after he secured a parliamentary majority.
Mogherini said that parliamentary majorities and the powers of the state institutions, in particular of the parliament, should always be respected.
“I am sure also that there is a way of avoiding turning this institutional crisis into an ethnic or inter-ethnic conflict in the country; or even worse, into a geopolitical conflict. Because your country is not subject to an external threat,” Mogherni was cited as saying.
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