Macedonia faces local government power vacuum

Macedonia faces local government power vacuum
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 14, 2017

Macedonia’s newly elected parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi is trying to find a solution to the deadlock within local governments after the mandates of mayors across the country run out on May 15. 

The deadline for announcing local elections, which should have been held this spring, expired back on March 6 as there was no parliament speaker to call the vote following the December general election. Once mayors’ mandates come to an end, it will be difficult for municipalities to function properly, and no decisions made by local authorities will be valid.

Xhaferi has called for a coordination meeting of parties to address the vacuum created on local authorities by postponing the local elections. 

“The next steps of the assembly will be the establishment of parliamentary committees, as a precondition for holding local elections,” the press office of the speaker said in a statement on May 12.

“All parliamentary parties are informed about the seriousness of the issue,” the statement added.

The parliament should amend the electoral code to enable current mayors to continue working until elections are held, while political parties have been asked to agree on a date for the new vote, the speaker's office said. 

According to 24vesti, the first coordination meeting will be held on May 15, while an unofficial meeting took place in the parliament on May 13.

The leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, has said the best possible dates for local election are July 2, September 17 or 24 and October 15, his party said in the statement on May 13. VMRO-DPMNE wants another snap general election to be held at the same as the local vote. 

However, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), which is currently trying to form a government, is against this proposal.

“We are urging President Ivanov to immediately give a mandate that will allow our party’s leader Zoran Zaev to quickly form a new government and then legally determine the date for local elections,” the SDSM said in a statement on May 14.

The SDSM wants the parliament to first elect a government and legal issues committees, after which local elections can be held in the autumn or next spring.

In the last local elections held in spring 2013, VMRO-DPMNE won most of the major positions.

There are 81 municipalities in Macedonia, including the capital Skopje, which has its own mayor but is divided into several separate municipalities.

Macedonia has been without a national government since the December 11 general election. The SDSM is trying to form a new government with three ethnic Albanian parties. However, Ivanov has so far refused to give a mandate to Zaev as he claims the SDSM's coalition with the Albanian parties could destabilise Macedonia. Ivanov is now seeking guarantees from the SDSM that the unitary character of the country will be preserved.

The new deadline for Ivanov to give a mandate to Zaev expires on May 19. Xhaferi has said that after this deadline there is no legal obstacle for him to call a session to vote on a new government without the mandate.

EU officials in Macedonia are also calling for the government to be formed as soon as possible.