Macedonian parliament cancels June 5 general election

Macedonian parliament cancels June 5 general election
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 19, 2016

The Macedonian parliament voted on May 18 to cancel the decision to hold an early general election on June 5, but has not set a new election date.

A snap general election was due to take place this spring under the Przino agreement signed in 2015 in an attempt to end the political crisis in Macedonia. However, all Macedonian parties except the ruling VMRO-DPMNE said they would boycott the vote, and the European Commission has warned it would not be credible.

The decision to postpone the election was made unanimously by 96 lawmakers, state-run news agency MIA reported.

In a separate development, the assembly also voted to replace the interim ministers from the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), who had been appointed to the government under the Przino agreement. The move is likely to further inflame tensions between government and opposition.

The parliament vote followed the Constitutional Court's decision earlier on May 18 to halt all activities arising from the decision to dissolve the parliament, including the plans to hold early elections in June. A final ruling on the constitutionality of the decision to dissolve the parliament will be made next week.

The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the VMRO-DPMNE’s junior coalition partner, referred the issue to the Constitutional Court. The DUI insists that the dissolution was unconstitutional because the parliament took the decision to disband the parliament on January 18 without setting an election date. The parliament was disbanded on April 6 before the parliament speaker called the election, which happened on April 15.

The assembly also voted to replace interim Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski and Labour Minister Frosina Remenski from the opposition SDSM with VMRO-DPMNE deputies Mitko Cavkov and Dime Spasov, MIA reported. All deputy ministers from the SDSM were also replaced.

SDSM installed its members in the government after former prime minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski resigned in January as part of the Przino agreement. This move opened the way to establish the interim government, led by Emil Dimitriev and including opposition ministers and deputy ministers, whose main role was to prepare for the early elections.

The replacement of the ministers sparked anger among the opposition, whose MPs walked out of the session, Nova TV reported.

Instead of helping to solve the current crisis, the replacement of the SDSM ministers may further deepen the political crisis.

Protests have taken place almost daily in Skopje since President Gjorje Ivanov decided in mid-April to pardon all politicians facing criminal proceedings.

Reactions to the decision to remove the SDSM ministers from the government were mixed, with some Macedonians angered by the move, while others defended Gruevski. Many people are simply confused by the series of recent moves by government institutions.

The international community continues to express concern over the situation in Macedonia. The European Commission (EC) previously warned that conditions for free and fair elections had not been met.

The EC said in a May 18 statement before the parliament vote that the Constitutional Court’s ruling paved the way for the elections to be cancelled. “This is a renewed opportunity for the country to address a number of serious issues at the heart of the prolonged political process,” the statement said.

Meanwhile US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee has started his visit to Macedonia to meet the leaders of the four main political parties and find a solution to the crisis.