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News 16 May 17

Macedonia MPs Likely to Delay Local Elections

Macedonia's overdue local elections will most probably be delayed until October, and the mandates of current mayors and municipal councils extended until then.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Voting in Macedonia. Archive Photo: MIA

Macedonia's parliament is likely to postpone the local elections for the first half of October, and extend the mandates of the current mayors until then.

This was concluded after Monday's talks between the key political parties hosted by the new speaker of parliament, Talat Xhaferi.

The consultations instigated by the new speaker took place in the nick of time, as Macedonia's 80-plus mayors end their terms on Monday, rendering them legally incapable of continuing to carry out municipal functions.

Although Xhaferi's office did not say when he will call for a session of parliament to make the legal changes, such a session is expected soon as the parties have now agreed to make this issue a priority.

Local elections should have been concluded already. However, because of the political crisis over the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party's refusal to allow a transition of power to the new majority after the December elections, parliament has been unable to convene and set the date for local elections, or delay them.

All the keyparties, bar VMRO DPMNE, attended Monday's parlays with Xhaferi.

However, VMRO DPMNE, although it refuses to recognize Xhaferi as a legally elected speaker, sent representatives to an informal party meeting one day earlier, also agreeing to postpone local elections and to extend the mandate of the current mayors, Xhaferi's office said.

However, VMRO DPMNE remained silent about its views on this issue on Monday.

Xhaferi's turbulent election as speaker in April 27 was seen as a turning point in the Macedonian crisis.

That day, the new majority in the chamber, led by the Social Democrats, elected Xhaferi as speaker, thereby overcoming a two-month blockade of the constitutive session imposed by VMRO DPMNE, which has been in power since 2006.

The election occurred only minutes before supporters of the VMRO DPMNE party stormed the parliament, injuring some 100 people, including 10 MPs from the new majority.

The violence was seen as a staged prelude to greater street violence that would then justify declaring martial law and suspending the transfer of power. However, this did not happen.

Under heavy international pressure, VMRO DPMNE was forced to condemn the rampage and President Gjorge Ivanov who had also been blocking the formation of a new government, by refusing to offer a mandate to the Social Democrat head, Zoran Zaev, softened his opposition.

Most observers now expect the new government to be formed by the end of this month, hopefully restoring a measure of normality after a political crisis that dragged on for more than two years.

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