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News 26 Feb 13

Macedonia Opposition Rejects Local Election Delay

The Social Democrat-led opposition has snubbed the government’s latest compromise proposal for overcoming the political crisis, calling it 'hypocrisy'.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian parliament

Social Democrats on Monday said that the proposal for a one-week postponement of local elections slated for March 24 - giving them more time to submit lists of candidates - was hypocritical.

“We are not boycotting the elections because we had no time to submit lists of candidates but because this is our response to the police-party coup that the government did… which suspended parliament democracy,” the main opposition party said.

Earlier that day, the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party said it was willing to postpone the election for a week if the opposition changed its mind about boycotting the vote.

The additional time would allow the opposition to submit lists of candidates, having missed the original deadline a week ago.

“If Social Democrats accept this proposal... we can adopt the changes in the election legislation,” Deputy Prime Minister, Zoran Stavreski said.

If this was accepted, polling day would shift from March 24 to March 31.

The ruling party said that the extra time would also allow for the formation of an independent commission to investigate events in parliament in December.

The Social Democrats launched their boycott of parliament on December 24, after the government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs and journalists were expelled from the chamber.

The political crisis then deepened when the opposition refused to submit a list of mayoral candidates by a February 24 deadline, after the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski rejected their calls to postpone the local elections or call an early general election.

The political impasse meanwhile threatens to derail country’s the EU agenda.

Last week, the Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, in separate letters to Macedonian leaders, expressed “deep concern” about “lack of progress” in ending the political stalemate.

The EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the next report of the European Commission.

It will assess whether Macedonia has taken real steps towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name, to which Athens objects, whether it has improved relations with Bulgaria and has carried out reforms at home.

Meanwhile, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, on Monday launched the monitoring mission for the local elections.

The OSCE/ODIHR mission will include 300 short-term and 20 long-term monitors, the mission head, Geert Ahrens, said in Skopje.


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