Uncertainty over forming new Macedonian government continues

Uncertainty over forming new Macedonian government continues
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje February 2, 2017

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said on February 1 he will give the mandate to form a new government only to a party or coalition that has secured a majority in the parliament. 

Nearly two months after the December 11 snap election in Macedonia there are no signs that the formation of new government is on the horizon, and Ivanov’s move means the political uncertainty will continue.

Since the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) were virtually tied in the election, either party could in theory form a government if it manages to bring some of the parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority on side.

Ivanov gave the first mandate to form the government to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE, the winner of the election by a very narrow margin. However, the party failed to form a government with its former partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), by the January 29 deadline. The failure happened after the DUI unexpectedly changed its mind right before the deadline, ruining VMRO-DPMNE’s hopes of continuing to govern the country after a decade in power. VMRO-DPMNE has ruled since 2006, and has been in coalition with the DUI since 2008.

Ivanov’s latest announcement came after he held separate meetings with the main political parties in the parliament.  

“First a proof of a secured majority, then the mandate for forming a government, in line with Article 90 of the constitution,” Ivanov said in the statement.

As Article 90 is unclear, experts are divided over who should be the next to be given the mandate. This also left room for the president to decide his next moves.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, who recently urged the president to give his party the mandate, said following his two-hour meeting with Ivanov that his party will not be given the mandate unless it provides evidence that it is supported by majority in the parliament, news agency MIA reported.

Zaev would have to collect 61 signatures from MPs in the 120-seat parliament - 49 from his party and at least 12 from ethnic Albanian parties - if he is to receive the mandate.

“In line with [the president’s] suggestion we will take a decision,” Zaev was cited as saying.

Asked about holding new elections, which is an option proposed by VMRO-DPMNE, Zaev said that only SDSM would benefit from a new election, but other political parties would not.

“New elections are not good for Macedonia. That is why we should launch the process of forming a new government as soon as possible,” Zaev said.

DUI leader Ali Ahmeti said after his meeting with Ivanov that “now all political factors should contribute to finding solution to the crisis and stability of the country.”

“Now all depends on Ivanov,” Ahmeti, who previously claimed that DUI is the main factor for forming the new government, was quoted by broadcaster Alsat-M. Ahmeti stressed that all options for forming a new government are still open.

DUI has 10 seats in the parliament, down from 19 in the previous composition, as it lost many votes after being criticised for servility towards the dominant VMRO-DPMNE partner.

Ivanov also met the leaders of small ethnic Albanian parties Besa and the Alliance for Albanians, which gained five and three seats in the parliament respectively. In a comment to Nova TV, Besa’s secretary general Afrim Gashi only confirmed Ivanov’s position that the party which secures a majority in the parliament will be given the mandate.

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.

“Such a coalition should rally around a strong, inclusive, reformist consensus and inter-ethnic cooperation,” Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Ivo Vajgl, Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein said in a joint statement on January 25.

VMRO-DPMNE is against such a government and says new elections are the only way to exit the crisis.

In their negotiations earlier this month, VMRO-DPMNE and the DUI reportedly agreed in principle to form a new government but the DUI then asked for all points set out in a platform adopted by the ethnic Albanian parties to be accepted by VMRO-DPMNE, which was rejected by the biggest Macedonian party.

There is also media speculation that another reason for the failure of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI to strike a new coalition deal was a split within the DUI over forming another coalition with embattled ex Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski is under investigation by the Special Prosecutor Office (SPO), which is tasked with probing high-level crime.