Macedonia’s SDSM launches talks on formation of new government

Macedonia’s SDSM launches talks on formation of new government
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 21, 2017

The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party has launched talks with ethnic Albanian parties to form the new government. 

This will be the first SDSM-led government to be formed following a decade of rule by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE. On May 17, President Gjorge Ivanov gave the mandate to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev to form the new cabinet after months of procrastination. Zaev is expected to form the new government within 10 days, even though he has until the June 6 deadline to compose the new cabinet.

Zaev held the first meeting with the biggest ethnic Albanian party – the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) – on May 19. The DUI gained 10 seats in the 120-seat parliament in the December 2016 snap election. 

On May 20, the SDSM met officials from Besa, following which SDSM MP Oliver Spasovski said: “We have been discussing principles on which the new government will be formed, but not ministerial posts.” Besa is represented by five MPs.

The parties are looking for serious and professional candidates for ministers as the new government has pledged to implement tough and comprehensive reform priorities, the SDSM said in a statement.

The most important thing for SDSM is not the distribution of ministerial positions, but to make institutions functional and to restore the rule of law, the party added. 

“The government should operate according to principles completely opposite to the 'predatory behaviour' of VMRO," SDSM spokesperson Petre Silegov was cited in the statement. 

The next SDSM meeting will be held with the Alliance for Albanians on May 22. After this, the parties will discuss the details of their future government.

Deputy SDSM president Damjan Mancevski said in the party statement that one of the priorities for the new government will be to implement infrastructure projects that will improve the quality of life of all citizens. Other promises include introducing measures to cut the unemployment rate, providing free medical treatment in hospitals for all citizens and ending external testing at the end of the school year in primary and secondary schools, which is an additional burden on students. 

Some of the measures seem to be populist ones intended to garner support from particular sections of the population.

Spasovski, who served as interior minister in the interim government before the election, and former SDSM leader Radmila Sekerinska are among candidates for ministers. Nikola Dimitrov, the former Macedonian ambassador to the US, is a potential candidate for foreign minister.

VMRO said the party will closely watch the moves of the new government formation and if Zaev breaches any of the guarantees he gave for keeping the unitary character of the country, the party will react decisively.

The formation of the new government is expected to put an end to the political deadlock in Macedonia since the December 11 general election, following which the country was without a government for several months due to the narrow results. 

SDSM was the runner-up in the election, with 49 seats, but the winning VMRO-DPMNE, which had governed since 2006, failed to form a new coalition government with the party.

SDSM enjoys international support to form a government and to implement the much needed reforms that will enable the country to move forward towards EU accession.

The country is an EU candidate, but failed to launch EU accession talks mainly due to its unresolved name issue with Greece. Zaev said previously that finding a solution to this problem will be a priority. A solution to the name dispute will also open the way for Macedonia to become a Nato member.