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News 12 Jul 17

Macedonia Opposition Tries to Paralyse Parliament

To prevent the quick approval of reforms sought by the EU and delay new public appointments, Macedonia’s former ruling VMRO DPMNE party has adopted a strategy aimed at stalling parliament’s progress.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonia's parliament. Photo: MIA

Many of the new government’s proposed bills, regulations and appointments may fall victim to the strategy adopted by the former ruling VMRO DPMNE, whose MPs have formed ten separate parliamentary caucuses which gave them more opportunities to stall parliament’s work.

The proposed dismissal of the chief Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski has already been delayed due to this filibustering as various VMRO DPMNE caucuses have since Monday been staging procedural interventions to make long speeches and asking for recesses.

The VMRO DPMNE, which controls 59 MPs in the 120-seat parliament, insisted that Zvrlevski’s dismissal should happen only after legal changes are made so that it, as the opposition, is able to propose his successor.

The Social Democrats, SDSM-led led majority believes that the real goal behind the formation of the ten caucuses is to paralyse parliament’s work, however.

“For every hour of recess that you ask for, I will prolong the [parliament] session for one hour after 6pm [parliament’s usual closing time],” parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi warned the opposition MPs.

The main ruling SDSM has also announced the possibility of changing parliament’s rulebook in order to prevent the filibustering. For that they need a simple majority of more than 60 MPs, which they have.

The VMRO DPMNE on Tuesday was not available for comment on its recent strategy in parliament.

The proposed budget rebalance, which should reach parliament this week, may face similar filibustering, as well as the expected appointment of new chief public prosecutor and many other appointments that are expected by the new SDSM-led government.

Equally importantly, many other laws and provisions that form part of the recently-announced government plan called 3-6-9, which contains a set of EU-sought reforms planned for the next three, six and nine months, may get tangled up in long parliamentary sessions

These include a set of reforms in the judiciary, police and other sectors, as well as a new law aimed at making the official use of the Albanian language more widespread.

The plan is the new government’s first push towards regaining the European Commission’s recommendation for the start of EU accession talks, which had been frozen due to the long-running political crisis in Macedonia.

The VMRO DPMNE formed its ten caucuses shortly after its chief, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, said last week that it will stop being cooperative due to the many criminal indictments raised against the party leadership.

The VMRO DPMNE accuses the SDSM-led government of using the Special Prosecution to launch a politically-orchestrated attack against it.

This is not the first time that the VMRO DPMNE has resorted to filibustering tactics.

In March, the party used endless discussions to prevent the election of new speaker Xhaferi, in a bid to prevent the new SDSM-led government coming to office in the wake of the December 11 elections.

The filibustering ended when the new SDSM-led majority took matters onto their own hands and elected Xhaferi as speaker in April 27, after which VMRO DPMNE supporters stormed the legislature, injuring 10 MPs including now Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

The VMRO DPMNE had been in power since 2006. Over the past two-and-a-half years however, the party suffered serious blows over accusations that it masterminded large-scale illegal wiretapping and was involved in various other high-level crimes.

The party then lost its majority in parliament at the December 11 elections.

 

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