Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev said on February 23 that he expects to form a new government in the next 10-15 days.
The appointment of an SDSM-led government would end the decade-long rule of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party in Macedonia. However, VMRO-DPMNE has claimed that the SDSM plans to violate the constitution, leading to speculation the party could launch protests or try to block the formation of a coalition by its rival.
Zaev’s party was the runner-up in the December 11 general election, but VMRO-DPMNE, which narrowly won election, failed to strike a new coalition deal with its former ethnic Albanian partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). Now the SDSM is in talks with the DUI and trying to form a new government.
“I know that the [DUI] leadership decided to provide signatures for securing a majority in the parliament, which was a condition set by President Gjorge Ivanov,” Zaev said in the party’s statement.
After VMRO-DPMNE failed to form a government, Ivanov said on February 1 he would give the mandate only to a party or coalition that has secured a majority in the parliament.
Zaev said it now remains to discuss details about the distribution of ministerial posts - implying that all major hurdles have been overcome.
His statement came after the DUI announced that the new draft document on the use of Albanian language had been accepted by the party’s presidency following consultations with SDSM. The use of the Albanian language on the whole territory of Macedonia was one of the conditions for the three ethnic Albanian parties represented in the assembly to join the government.
DUI spokesman Bujar Osmani said on February 23 that there are still issues that need to be discussed, but that "an important stage of the process has been completed," according to broadcaster Alsat-M.
The DUI presidency is to hold a session on February 24, when party leader Ali Ahmeti will decide whether to officially support SDSM to form a new government.
Three other ethnic political parties will be represented in the parliament, of which two, Besa and the Alliance for Albanians, also insist on the Albanian language being used for official purposes across the country.
The SDSM, which gained 49 seats in the 120-parliament versus 51 for VMRO-DPMNE, will also need the support of other ethnic Albanian parties, as DUI gained only 10 seats.
DUI, Besa and the Alliance for Albanians adopted a joint platform on January 7 asking for more rights as a prerequisite for their participation in the new coalition government. Aside from making Albanian an official language at all level of governance, their demands include equal representation for ethnic Albanians in the Macedonian army, police, intelligence service, judiciary, public agencies and state-owned enterprises.
VMRO-DPMNE is against such a government and says new elections are the only way to exit the crisis.
The party said on February 23 that the SDSM plans to violate the constitution in its efforts to form the government with DUI, and that VMRO will not allow that.
According to some analysts this means that VMRO-DPMNE may try to sabotage the new government, if it is formed, or start protests.
The European Union officials recently called on Macedonian political leaders to form a stable government based on broad consensus on key reform priorities to enable the country to move forward towards EU integration.
Snap elections were aimed to help the country exit the crisis following wiretapping scandal in 2015, which revealed high-level crime, but they only deepened the political tensions.
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