Macedonian parties clinch deal to overcome crisis

Macedonian parties clinch deal to overcome crisis
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje July 21, 2016

Macedonia’s four main political parties reached a deal on July 20 to overcome the longstanding political crisis in the country and pave the way for early elections.

Despite the new agreement, it is still not clear whether the parties will implement the agreed steps by the end of August, when they are due to decide on the new election date. The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), has said it expects a snap vote in December.

The European Union delegation in Skopje confirmed in a statement that an agreement has been reached and listed the steps that should be taken.

“By August 31, leaders of the four political parties will assess whether the steps have been completed by which the conditions for holding elections are fulfilled and will set an election date,” the EU delegation said in the statement.

The four parties that took parts in the talks are the governing VMRO-DPMNE, its ethnic Albanian coalition partner the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the SDSM and the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

The crisis in Macedonia started 18 months ago when incriminating wiretapped conversations involving top officials were leaked by the SDSM. The Przino agreement signed in 2015 appeared to resolve the crisis but rifts between government and opposition later reemerged. The crisis deepened further in mid-April when President Gjorge Ivanov pardoned 56 people, including top politicians under criminal investigation, which sparked mass protests in the country. The pardons were later revoked, but protests continued.

On July 20, it was agreed that if elections take place in 2016, a new government created in line with the 2015 Przino agreement will be voted in by the parliament 100 days before the agreed day of the elections.

Among the other issues agreed is that the electoral code should be amended by July 22 to reflect the deal on the voter list.

In terms of media reforms, it was agreed the Audiovisual Media Services law and the electoral code will be amended and that no journalist or media outlet will be fined for expressing their opinion.

In consultation with the other parties, the SDSM will nominate the chief editor of public broadcaster MRTV.

Concerning the Special Prosecution office, set up under the Przino agreement to probe revelations related to the leaked wiretapped conversations, if the Constitutional Court decides that all or part of the legislation on the Special Prosecution is unconstitutional, all four parties commit to align the legislation with the decision of the court and to re-establish the office within five days, the statement said.

NGOs and experts will be also included in the reform process and its implementation.

According to the SDSM, if all conditions are met by end of August, early elections are possible on December 11. The snap election was previously called on April 24 and then on June 5 but were postponed as conditions for free vote were not met.

"Macedonia will have fair and democratic elections which is the only way for the country to overcome the crisis," SDSM's deputy president Radmila Sekerinska was quoted in the statement.

VMRO-DPMNE has not yet issued a statement following the talks.