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News 18 May 17

Besa Refuses to Commit to Joining Macedonia Govt

The ethnic Albanian Besa party has said a decision on joining a new Social-Democrat-led government will follow only once it is sure the new cabinet does not include ministers suspected of corruption.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Besa leader, Bilall Kasami. archive photo

The head of the ethnic Albanian Besa party in Macedonia, Bilall Kasami, on Wednesday said his party's participation in a new Social Democrat-led government will depend on whether other participants propose ministers who are entangled in corruption scandals.

"We won't participate in a government together with people who are being investigated by the SJO," Kasami said, referring to the Special Prosecution, a body established especially to investigate high-level crime and corruption.

He was speaking after meeting Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev who earlier on Wednesday received the presidential mandate to form the new government.

Kasami's remarks about the SJO were clearly directed to the party's main ethnic Albanian rival, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI - which is also part of the new majority in parliament but which earlier ruled Macedonia for years in coalition with Nikola Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party.

Besa has strongly attacked the DUI for its eight-years-long government alliance with Gruevski's nationalists and insists that, despite shifting sides after the December 11 elections, the DUI should be held partly responsible for crimes attributed to Gruevski's government.

These allegations are now being investigated by the SJO, which was formed in 2015 as part of an EU-sponsored crisis agreement between the main political leaders.

Its primary task is to investigate allegations arising from the wiretapping scandal revealed by Zaev's party earlier that same year.

Kasami said Besa's participation in the new cabinet will only be discussed once they finish aligning their party platform with that of Zaev's party.

Previously, on receiving the mandate from President Gjorge Ivanov, Zaev said he wanted to include all three main ethnic Albanian parties in his cabinet.

"Besa supported the new majority and that gives me the right to at least start talks with them and invite them to take part," Zaev said.

With the support of Besa, the DUI and the Alliance for Albanians, Zaev has the support of 67 of the 120 MPs in the assembly. Besa won five seats in the December election. The other two Albanian parties have agreed to join the cabinet already.

Starting from Wednesday, Zaev has 20 days to finalize his government platform and submit his proposed cabinet to parliament. However, he said he would try to speed things up and submit it earlier, within ten days.

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