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News 04 May 17

Clock Ticks for Macedonia President to Offer Mandate

Macedonia's parliament has informed the President of the new majority, led by the Social Democrats, to which the President has ten days to respond by awarding the mandate for forming a new government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Social Democrat's leader Zoran Zaev said he expected formation of new government by the end of May. Photo: sdsm

The new speaker of Macedonia's parliament, Talat Xhaferi, on Thursday confirmed that he has sent a letter to President Gjorge Ivanov informing him that the Social Democrats command a majority in parliament - and so expect to be offered a mandate to form a government. The presidential cabinet has not yet confirmed receiving the notice.

The head of the Social Democrats, SDSM, Zoran Zaev, who is expecting to receive the long overdue mandate, on Thursday said he hoped Ivanov would respond soon, allowing for the speedy formation of the new government, preferably this month.

After talking to OSCE representatives in Skopje, Zaev said he and his coalition partners from the ethnic Albanian bloc wished to meet Ivanov to again allay the President's stated concerns that his new cabinet might jeopardize the country's unity.

Under the constitution, Ivanov has a duty to award the mandate to whichever party or coalition commands a majority in parliament within ten days of receiving official notice of this from parliament.

The new majority has an additional 20 days to agree on the new cabinet, which is then put to a vote in parliament.

Zaev said he hoped the entire process would proceed without further incidents caused by his bitter rivals in the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party led by Nikola Gruevski.

However, after the violence seen in parliament last Thursday, when protesters stormed in and assaulted MPs, Zaev did not exclude the possibility of further obstruction.

The violence followed the election of the new speaker by the new majority, which controls at least 67 of the 120 seats in parliament.

Supporters of the VMRO DPMNE party stormed the parliament building and injured some 100 people including MPs and journalists.

Zaev was among the MPs injured during the attack, which was only slowly dealt with by police, fuelling suspicion that the event was coordinated by officials from or close to the VMRO DPMNE party.

Macedonia has remained in political limbo since early elections on December 11 failed to resolve the long-standing political crisis. Since then, it has not been possible to form a government.

President Ivanov and VMRO DPMNE have insisted that a government led by Zaev’s Social Democrats would jeopardize the country's sovereignty because Zaev has accepted several demands set by ethnic Albanian parties, including a call for greater official use of the Albanian language.

The SDSM insists that VMRO DPMNE, which has led the government since 2006, is clinging to power mainly because its leaders fear standing trial for corruption, instigated by the Special Prosecution.

However, after meeting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee on Monday, following the rampage in parliament, the President seemed to soften his stance, inviting Zaev only to guarantee that his government will not endanger the country.

Meanwhile, the new speaker, Xhaferi, whose election was swiftly endorsed by top EU and US officials, paid an official visit to Brussels on Thursday, just one day after assuming office.

His invitation by EU representatives to Belgium, which was not pre-announced, is seen as adding confirmation to the legitimacy of his position, which is still disputed at home by the VMRO DPMNE party.

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