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News 20 Jun 14

Macedonia Opposition Sets Terms For Crisis Talks

As the opposition sets five conditions for ending the political crisis in the country, planned talks between party leaders have been postponed to next week.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

 SDSM leader, Zoran Zaev | Photo by: SDSM

Zoran Zaev, head of the main opposition Social Democratic Party, SDSM, has set five terms that he said the government of Nikola Gruevski must meet if they plan to end the post-election crisis.

The five conditions that Zaev set at a press conference on Thursday are the formation of a caretaker government, separation of party and state activities, better regulation of the media, improvements to the electoral laws and carrying out national head count to determine how many voters there are.

Ahead of his first meeting with Gruevski, set for Friday but now rescheduled for Tuesday - aimed at ironing out arguments that followed the April elections - Zaev said that they will not accept any deal if a guarantor from the European Union is not present.

“Our experience from previous deals with Nikola Gruevski shows that they remain undelivered," he said.

"In order to take him seriously this time, we insist that the opposition plays its part in anything that we might possibly agree and that there is guarantor from the European Union," he added.

In May, all 33 opposition MPs - bar one - submitted written resignations to the 123-seat parliament after alleging fraud in the April general and presidential elections.

The opposition insisted that Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party won both elections by fraud and demanded the formation of a caretaker government to prepare new elections.

The resignations of the opposition MPs did not greatly affect the work of the new parliament, as 89 of the 123 seats remain filled which was enough for Gruevski's new governemtn to be endorsed on Thursday.

But the political dispute could damage Macedonia's already stalled prospects of European and Atlantic integration.

Amid media reports of covert Brussels-instigated talks aimed at ending the crisis, both parties said their leaders have agreed to meet to open a dialogue on problematic issues.

"I believe the opposition MPs will soon return to this [parliament] chamber, as they were begging the people so much to give them an opportunity to sit in it", Gruevski told the parliament on Thursday, referring to the election campaign.

The opposition insists that Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, and who described the April elections as flawless, has usurped institutions and left no space for a functioning democratic process.

It says only a caretaker government can organize the next elections in order for them to be free and fair.

“We must restore democracy in Macedonia. Institutions must be freed and allowed to act professionally. The future of this country are EU and NATO and not this 'hybrid regime',” Zaev said, citing sections of a Freedom Houses study entitled "Nations in Transit 2014" that was released this month.

In it Macedonia for the first time was described as a “Transitional hybrid regime”. The report also noted a marked decline in the independence of the media and in the fight against corruption.

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