Macedonian president refuses to give mandate to Social Democrat leader

Macedonian president refuses to give mandate to Social Democrat leader
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 1, 2017

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has refused to give the mandate to form a new government to Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, citing fears that Zaev’s deal with ethnic Albanian parties could put the country’s sovereignty at risk.

Macedonians are holding mass protests in Skopje and other cities against the platform drawn up by three ethnic Albanian parties. This was accepted by Zaev, but considered by many Macedonians to be disastrous for the country's interests. The latest developments will further deepen the political crisis and raise ethnic tensions in the country, where ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of the population. 

“As long as I am the president of Macedonia I will not give the mandate to a person or party that promotes programmes for destroying the country’s sovereignty, integrity and independence,” Ivanov said in a televised address on March 1.

Ivanov cited article 84 of the Macedonian constitution, which he said means he cannot entrust the mandate to a person who is negotiating platforms of other countries, which put at risk the sovereignty and independence of Macedonia, and with which Macedonian people are blackmailed.

The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) was the runner up in the December 11 election, and Zaev asked for a mandate from Ivanov after securing enough signatures from three ethnic Albanian parties to form a majority in parliament. 

They supported Zaev after he accepted the platform adopted by the ethnic Albanian parties represented in the Macedonian parliament on January 7, as a precondition for supporting a new government. One of the main conditions is the use of the Albanian language at all levels of governance and on the whole territory of Macedonia.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE, which narrowly won the election, failed to form a government with its old partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), after refusing to accept the Albanian parties’ demands.

The platform was created following consultations with political leaders from Albania and Kosovo. This was a particular target of Ivanov’s criticism; the president said that “foreign post-election platforms” cannot be a basis for creating a new government.

Zaev reacted instantly in a party statement. saying that Ivanov should revoke the decision and give him a mandate to form a government as soon as possible

For Zaev, the act of the president represents “a coup”.

“Ivanov is pushing the country into a deep crisis with unforeseeable consequences,” Zaev was quoted in the statement.

Meanwhile, a mass protest organised by For United Macedonia, a civil association close to VMRO-DPMNE, took place for the third consecutive day on March 1. The main march was held in Skopje, but smaller ones were organised in other cities in Macedonia.

Protestors wore red and yellow strips of fabric to symbolise the Macedonian flag, and blew whistles.

In general, people who participated in the march were against the ethnic Albanian platform and making Macedonia a bilingual state.

Vanco Petrusevski, a renowned Macedonian actor, told bne IntelliNews that the ethnic Albanian platform is unacceptable. He considers that a new snap election might be seen as an option for exiting of the deepening political crisis.

One of the organisers, Boris Damovski, creator of the critical animated show Ednooki, said that the rallies will last until their demands are met.

Currently Albanian is an official language in municipalities where ethnic Albanians represent over 20% of the population, which includes the capital Skopje. Albanian also has official status in the parliament.