Opposition ministers to join Macedonian cabinet

Opposition ministers to join Macedonian cabinet
By bne IntelliNews November 12, 2015

Macedonia’s parliament unanimously approved the appointment of two ministers and three deputy ministers nominated by the opposition Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) on November 11.

The appointment of SDSM nominees at the interior ministry and the ministry of labour and social policy is a critical step in the implementation of the Przino Agreement agreement reached in July, that resolves the political crisis in the country.

Under the agreement, an interim government, to be headed by a new prime minister nominated by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, is to be sworn in on January 15, ending Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s 11-year domination of Macedonian politics.

The five opposition ministers will join the VMRO-DPMNE party in the new government until early elections scheduled for April 24, 2016.

SDSM secretary general Oliver Spasovski has been approved as Macedonia’s new interior minister, and the party’s vice-president Frosina Remenski will head the ministry of labour and social policy. The party also nominated deputy ministers - of information society and administration, finance, and agriculture - who will have veto rights on election-related matters in their respective ministries.

Meanwhile, the incumbent ministers of interior and labour were nominated by VMRO-DPMNE as deputy ministers with veto rights in their respective ministries. Their nominations were also approved by the parliament.

In a move unrelated to the political agreement, the parliament also elected Marta Arsovska-Tomovska from VMRO-DPMNE as the new minister of information society and administration, replacing Ivo Ivanovski who resigned.

The July agreement was brokered by the EU and the US following months of political turmoil in Macedonia.

The SDSM had boycotted the parliament since the April 2014 general election, claiming the vote had been rigged. In early 2015, the party started releasing transcripts of incriminating conversations involving Gruevski and other top officials obtained through secret wiretaps. This triggered a wave of mass protests that eventually forced Gruevski’s government to the negotiating table.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev told a press conference on November 11 that the parliament’s approval of the new ministers was a “another step in the unstoppable path that will bring democratic changes to the country.”

But while the SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE will have to work together in the interim government, whose programme will be limited to the organisation of the elections, there was little easing off of hostility between the two sides.

Ilija Dimovski, coordinator of the VMRO-DPMNE parliamentary group, told the parliament that with the SDSM forming part of the government from January, it would have “no excuse for the defeat that awaits it” in the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, on November 12 the SDSM called for Health Minister Nikola Todorov to resign immediately over shortages of insulin at public hospitals.

The next step in the implementation of the political deal is reaching agreement on the media. According to BIRN, the SDSM has already submitted concrete proposals on reducing government influence on the media ahead of the election.

Successful implementation of the agreement could help Macedonia on its path to EU accession, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn indicated on November 10.

“In the light of the progress made so far in the implementation of the June/July political agreement, the Commission is prepared to extend its recommendation to open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” Hahn said at the presentation of the EC’s 2015 Enlargement Package.

“This shall, however, be conditional on the continued implementation of the June/July political agreement and substantial progress in the implementation of the urgent reform priorities. This issue shall be addressed again after the elections,” he added.