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News 24 Jun 14

Macedonian Leaders Meet to Tackle Post-Election Feud

Macedonia's prime minister and opposition leader are starting talks aimed at defusing the political crisis in the country, but experts suggest that progress could be slow.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian PM, Nikola Gruevski and opposition leader, Zoran Zaev | Archive photo by: mia

Prime minister and ruling VMRO DPMNE party leader Nikola Gruevski and Zoran Zaev, the head of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, SDSM, are starting talks on Tuesday in Skopje to discuss ending the crisis that erupted when the opposition disputed the April elections.

The dispute, which has seen the opposition boycott parliament, could damage Macedonia's EU and NATO membership hopes. But ahead of the talks, both leaders stuck to their opposing positions. 

Gruevski told media he hoped that “the opposition stops harming Macedonia” and finally takes up its seats in parliament in order to end the crisis that erupted after the April early elections.

Last week Zaev delivered five conditions which incliuded the formation of a caretaker government, the separation of party and state activities, better regulation of the media, improvements to electoral laws and a national census to determine how many voters there are.

He said that the opposition wants a guarantor from Brussels to oversee any agreement.

Gruevski however has rejected the idea of a caretaker government.

Antonio Milososki, a former Foreign Minister in Gruevski’s cabinet and VMRO DPMNE MP, said he expected the talks to be tough and make slow progress, if any.

“The dialogue will not go easily or quickly. Those who expect too much from this dialogue risk big disappointment. What is most important is for the outcome to be responsible to the electoral will of the people and favourable for Macedonian interests,” Milososki said.

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 the ruling VMRO DPMNE party won both elections illegitimately and demanded the formation of a caretaker government to prepare new polls.

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 is more than the two-thirds necassary.

However, the political dispute could damage the country's already stalled prospects of Euro-Atlantic integration.

The meeting between the two leaders was agreed last week after local media reported rumours that there were ongoing covert negotiations between the government and the opposition, allegedly instigated by Brussels.

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