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news 04 Mar 17

Macedonia Albanians Seek to Join Opposition-Led Govt

The main ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia has declared it is ready to join a coalition government led by the Social Democrats.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, keeps insisting that nothing in the agreed platform of the next government posed a danger to Macedonia.Photo: MIA.

The main ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, has formally decided to participate in a future government led by the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, and has urged the country’s President to revoke his veto on the Social Democrats leading a new administration.

The party previously allowed its ten MPs to submit signatures of support, so that Zaev's Social Democrats, SDSM, could claim the backing of a majority of MPs in parliament and seek a mandate from President Gjorge Ivanov.

The new, firmer decision emerged at a meeting of the party’s presidency on Friday night, when the DUI decided that it would also join such a government.

“The decision to enter an SDSM-led government was reached unanimously,” the head of the DUI, Ali Ahmeti, said on Friday around midnight.

The DUI urged Ivanov to immediately stop blocking a Zaev-led government, insisting that nothing in the agreed platform of the next government posed a danger to Macedonia's constitution, integrity and sovereignty.

Tensions – high since the closely run general election in December – soared further on Monday after Zaev asked President Ivanov to offer him a mandate, only for Ivanov to refuse to do so.

Ivanov insisted that such a government had the potential to “destroy the country” because Zaev had earlier accepted a number of demands from the country’s ethnic Albanian parties as contained in an agreed “Albanian platform”.

These include extension of the official use of Albanian to the whole of the country.

Zaev, who has obtained the support of all three ethnic Albanian parties represented in parliament, accused Ivanov of attempting a coup by denying the will of the majority.

Ivanov’s decision drew sharp criticism from the West. The EU, Washington, NATO and the OSCE have all called on the President to retract his veto, insisting that it goes against basic democratic principles.

A number of constitutional experts in Macedonia say Ivanov has exceeded his powers, which oblige him to award the mandate to whichever bloc commands a majority in parliament.

Some experts have suggested that it would be legal for parliament to ignore the President’s veto on an opposition-led government and elect one on its own.

Supporters of the nationalist VMRO DPMNE party, which has been in power since 2006, are keeping up the pressure against such a possible move.

Like the President, they claim a potential coalition government between the SDSM and the ethnic Albanian parties would endanger Macedonia's sovereignty.

They say they will continue dails protests in the capital and in other towns across the country against such a prospect.

If Macedonia is to preserve the deadline for the next regular local elections in April/May, parliament must convene by Monday to start the official preparations.

Macedonia has been mired in political crisis for two years since Zaev’s Social Democrats claimed the VMRO-DPMNE-led government of Nikola Gruevski had tapped the phones of thousands of people, including his own ministers.

Gruevski has denied the claim. This as well as many other allegations are meanwhile being investigated by the Special Prosecution, a body formed specifically for the purpose of probing high-level crime.

The opposition insist that the presidential veto and the protests are a cover designed to allow Gruevski to cling onto power and so escape justice.

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