Macedonian parliament approves reshuffle of ethnic Albanian DUI party ministers

By Valentina Dimitrievsksa in Skopje and Dimitar Koychev in Sofia April 4, 2016

The Macedonian parliament accepted the resignation of ministers from the ranks of the VMRO-DPMNE’s junior coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), without any discussion on April 4. The ministers were replaced by members of the party’s youth wing.

No reasons have been given for the reshuffle, but it comes two months before Macedonia is due to hold a snap general election on June 5.

Resignations were approved for two prime ministers - deputy prime minister for European affairs Fatmir Besimi, and Musa Xhaferi, who was responsible for the implementation of the Ohrid agreement, a peace deal signed by the government of Macedonia and ethnic Albanian representatives in 2001.

Justice minister Adnan Jashari, education minister Abdilaqim Ademi, economy minister Bekim Neziri, environment minister Nurhan Izairi and local self-governance minister Lirim Shabani also resigned, as did four deputy ministers.

MPs approved their replacements, Arben Ademi, Festim Halili, Valdet Xhaferi, Pishtar Lutfiu, Driton Kuci, Bashkim Ahmeti and Shyhrete Elezi, according to MRTV live broadcast. In addition, Arlind Zeqiri was appointed as minister without portfolio for foreign investments.

Presently, Macedonia is ruled by an interim government tasked with preparing early general elections. The Assembly is expected to be disbanded on April 7 ahead of the planned June 5 election.

The elections were initially scheduled for April 24, but in February they were postponed until June, following an assessment by the ambassadors of the EU and the US that conditions had not been met to hold credible early elections in April. Problematic areas included cleaning up the voters’ registry, achieving agreement on media reforms “to ensure a more level playing field”, as well as concerns about initial reports of pressure and intimidation of voters.

Previously, the EU-brokered Przino agreement was reached in July 2015 to overcome the political crisis in Macedonia, which deepened after the biggest opposition party, the  Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) released a number of tapes with recorded conversations concerning, among other things, the involvement of the VMRO-DPMNE-led government in the judiciary, media and key appointments.

The parties that participated in the talks under the Przino deal were the governing VMRO-DPMNE and DUI as well as the opposition SDSM and Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA). However, the SDSM later warned that it will boycott the elections if proper conditions are not met.

As part of the deal, an interim government was elected in January, led by Emil Dimitriev, a lawmaker and secretary general of VMRO-DPMNE. The SDSM proposed two ministers, of interior and labour. In addition, the opposition party has deputy ministers of finance, agriculture, as well as information society and administration, who have veto rights in all legal, financial and personnel matters related to the organisation of the elections.

In a related note, on April 1 credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) affirmed Macedonia at BB-/B with a stable outlook, but said that the political situation remains uncertain. S&P noted that the election date was moved to allow further work on the electoral roll, as well as media reforms, to ensure free and fair elections. “Nevertheless, it remains uncertain whether the opposition will participate in the election or the resulting parliament,” S&P assessed.

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