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News 18 May 16

Macedonia MPs Vote to Delay June 5 Elections

After the Constitutional Court ruled that the dissolution of parliament ahead of the polls was unconstitutional, MPs have re-convened and voted to delay the hugely controversial election.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The Macedonian Constitutional Court | Photo: ustavensud.mk


Macedonia's parliament suddently re-convened on Wednesday in order to postpone the controversial June 5 elections, although a sudden proposed mini-reshuffle in the interim government added a new twist to the country's political crisis.

Parliament met once again at short notice after the Constitutional Court on Wednesday morning effectively halted the June 5 election date, having ruled that parliament's earlier dissolution was unconstitutional.

MPs then voted to postpone the election date by a large majority of 96 out of 123.

Earlier, the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, MPs left the plenary session in protest after the ruling majority voted to replace the Police and Social Policy ministers, Oliver Spasovski and Frosina Remenski, who come from opposition ranks, with their deputies, who come from the ruling VMRO DPMNE party.

SDSM MPs left the session as the new ministers took their oath. Gjorgi Sugarevski, from the SDSM, told parliament that the ruling VMRO DPMNE party and its junior partner, the  Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, had "radicalized the political crisis" with this move.

VMRO DPMNE legislator Ilija Dimovski replied that he and his fellow MPs would "not allow the SDSM to keep Macedonia in permanent crisis".

The ethnic Albanian opposition party, the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, was not present at the session.

Its leader, Menduh Thaci, had previously announced that the Constitutional Court ruling and the following parliament session were all part of a "disgusting" plot.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday morning ruled that the dissolution of parliament ahead of the June 5 polls was unconstitutional and halted all preparations for the elections.

The abrupt ministerial reshuffle, proposed by the Interim Prime Minister, Emil Dimitriev, meanwhile came despite warnings from Brussels and Washington that they would not support unilateral party moves that hindered a resolution to the Macedonian crisis.

"The way forward must be defined by all main political parties together," the European Commission's Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, and the Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"Approaches which do not respect this principle are something that the EU cannot support and stand behind.... which means that all preparations for elections on June 5 now have to stop."

Ahead of the court ruling, the Court President, Elena Gosheva, said the court intended to make a "precedent", and accept the initiative from the DUI, on account of the dire political crisis in the country.

Although the ruling on Wednesday had a temporary character, and the Court was due to reach a final decision next week, it clearly opened the door to a limited breakthrough in Macedonia's political stalemate.

This was because parliament could then reconvene and discuss the postponement of the controversial election date.

Tthe DUI and the opposition SDSM and DPA all agree that reforms have not been implemented that would allow truly free elections to take place.

Adding to the pressure to delay the elections, on Monday the European Union warned that it will not recognise the results of polls if only one main party takes part.

By that point, only the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, insisted on a June 5 election date.

The party also insisted that the elections would be free and fair. It had earlier maintained that there were no legal means to postpone elections, either.

However, the authorities faced intense diplomatic pressure from the US and from EU to back down.

The EU and the US also demanded that President Gjorge Ivanov withdraw his controversial pardon of 56 top politicians and their associates, so that the office of the Special Prosecution, formed last year to investigate high-level crime, could resume its work unhindered.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee started a visit to Macedonia on Wednesday to meet the leaders of the four main political parties.

Germany's special envoy for the Macedonian crisis, Johannes Haindl, due to arrive on Thursday, will also hold intensive meetings with Macedonia's warring politicians.

President Ivanov's pardon on April 12, as well as VMRO DPMNE's insistence on a June 5 election date, sparked a wave of anti-government protests in Macedonia, which some have dubbed the "Colourful Revolution".

The DUI, which had submitted the initiative to the Court, greeted the court ruling as a good move that represents "the first step towards solving the deep political crisis."

The opposition Social Democrats, however, were more cautious. They said that the ruling "only creates an illusion that the path towards overcoming the crisis is unblocked while in reality it only proves that previous rulings by the Constitutional Court... were dictated by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski".

The party also insisted that the Court must also annul the Presidential pardon of 56 politicians and their associates, which would unclog the work of the Special Prosecution.

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