The Macedonian parliament voted down the no-confidence motion filed by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party against the government after a day-long debate on April 11. The motion was rejected by 62 MPs, while 40 voted in favour and two abstained.
The vote was seen as a test for the reform agenda of the government, which came to power in May 2017, and is expected to start debating reform laws as soon as April 12. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is planning a government reshuffle and the possible expansion of the ruling majority in the parliament to include more parties.
The motion was filed 10 months after Zaev’s Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and its coalition partner the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) came to power. The rejection of the motion was expected even though the SDSM and DUI, supported by another small ethnic Albanian party, have only a slim majority of 62 MPs in the 120-seat parliament.
When filing the motion, VMRO-DPMNE accused the government of increasing crime and corruption, and causing economic stagnation.
Zaev defended the work of the government in his address to MPs, saying that his cabinet is oriented to reforms and to restoring the situation in the country following the “devastating” 10-year governance of VMRO-DPMNE. The SDSM came to power at the end of May 2017.
Zaev underlined that the government’s priority is for Macedonia to gain EU and Nato membership. He also noted that 2018 will be a year of judicial reforms.
Speaking about his economic plans, Zaev said that the government expects the country to achieve economic growth of 3.2% in 2018 that will open many new jobs. He also said that the authorities concluded contracts with 10 foreign investors in the past ten months and their number are expected to increase to 18 by the end of the year.
The prime minister complained that his government inherited a debt of €280mn for the Skopje 2014 project to revamp the capital, which is 70% of the total amount allocated for capital investments for 2018. The controversial Skopje 2014 project, which was heavily criticised by the SDSM and many architects, ended up costing over €700mn.
Zaev also called on all MPs to support the concept of “one society for all” and urged President Gjorge Ivanov to sign the language law, which will make Albanian the second official language in the country. The president and the opposition have fiercely rejected this law, claiming that it is unconstitutional.
Relations between the SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE are highly acrimonious. VMRO-DPMNE MPs only returned to the parliament for the debate after a several-month boycott following the arrest of several of its MPs involved in violent incidents in the parliament in April 2017.
During the debate, VMRO-DPMNE accused the government of having no capacity to run the country. Its MPs also said that in the past 10 months the government failed to meet its pre-election promises to improve the economy and implement reforms.
The government was blamed for economic stagnation, a fall in investments, a failure to increase salaries and pensions, and a rise in the country’s indebtedness, on top of what VMRO-DPMNE said was an increase in crime and corruption.
Opposition MPs say that the government neglected issues of national interest, and failed to create a consensus as it tries to solve the name dispute with Greece.
Zaev’s government has been in talks with Greek officials to try and solve the long-standing conflict with Athens — which objects to the use of the name “Macedonia” — in an attempt to unblock Macedonia’s EU and Nato integration processes. The government also signed a friendship treaty with Bulgaria as it seeks to mend relations with neighbouring countries.
The head of the SDSM parliamentary group Tomislav Tuntev said earlier on April 11 that the statements by VMRO-DPMNE MPs are “untrue” and not supported by “objective and measurable criteria”.
Tuntev defended the government, saying it has improved relations with Macedonia’s neighbours, introduced a cheap electricity tariff for households and solved the problem with workers laid off during illegal privatisations of factories after the fall of communism.