Macedonian parties agree to hold early elections

By bne IntelliNews June 3, 2015

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The leaders of Macedonia’s four largest political parties have reached a preliminary agreement to hold early elections by end-April 2016, according to a statement issued by Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner in charge of European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations. A final deal is expected to be reached at a new round of talks scheduled to be held in Brussels on June 10.

This could bring an end to the deep political crisis the Balkan country has been experiencing since February, when alleged tapes of compromising conversations between leading members of the government, including Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, began to be leaked by the opposition. The tapes, according to Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), were part of mass illegal wire-tapes orchestrated by the government.

On June 2, Hahn met in Skopje with Prime Minister Gruevski, who is also leader of the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE, Zaev, Ali Ahmeti, leader of the biggest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is also part of the governing coalition, and Menduh Thaci, leader of the opposition ethnic Albanian party the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

In his remarks, the commissioner said that ahead of the elections there must be sound electoral codes, a revised voting list and respect for the rights of minorities. All recommendations of the European Commission concerning the independence of the judiciary should be accepted, he added. “We have yet no negotiations, but it is about rule of law, independence of justice, freedom of media etc.,” Hahn said.

This was the fourth meeting between the party leaders, with earlier meetings ending without tangible progress.

The press release did not say who would organise the early elections, only that those involved agreed to foresee “a kind of transitional period".” In another statement, Hahn said, “A number of points will need to be further elaborated and agreed over the coming days, and in this respect, the Commissioner has asked to finalise talks with the leaders shortly.”

Zaev and the opposition have been demanding the resignation of Gruevski, the formation of a transitional government to prepare for fair elections, and the resignation of the public prosecutor and the management of public broadcaster MRTV. Gruevski has refused to bow to their demands, though last month he accepted the resignations of his interior minister, transport minister and intelligence chief, who all featured on the tapes.

In his resignation letter Saso Mijalkov, the outgoing head of intelligence, said that he hoped his departure would "help in overcoming the political crisis imposed by the opposition”, but the resignations did little to calm the mood in the country.

MPs from SDSM have boycotted parliament since the April 2014 general elections, claiming that the elections were rigged.

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