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News 03 Jan 13

Opposition to Boycott Local Elections in Macedonia

Political crisis continues in Macedonia as Social Democrat-led opposition says it will boycott local elections in March.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

SDSM vice-president, Gordan Georgiev | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Opposition parties led by the Social Democratic Party, SDSM, said they will not take part in the March local elections on the grounds that the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, plans to rig the polls. They also said they will boycott any elections as long as he is in power.

“We will not go into the elections,” said SDSM vice-president, Gordan Georgiev. “We have a dictatorial regime that cannot organize normal, free and fair elections”.

The political crisis in Macedonia escalated on December 24 when the government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs and journalists were kicked out of the parliament.

Opposition MPs have since quit parliament and called on supporters to stage acts of civil disobedience against the government of Gruevski and his centre-right VMRO DPMNE party.

Earlier, the opposition had demanded "purification" of the electoral roll, which domestic and international observers said they suspected contained fictional or deceased voters.

“Any debate about the electoral roll is now irrelevant… given the violence in parliament on Monday [December 24],” Georgiev said.

The electoral role, which during 2011 general elections counted over 1,700.000 voters, has been a matter of controversy for some time.

The OSCE, which has monitored Macedonia's past elections, has described it as unusually large for a country of just over 2 million people and has urged officials to check the list.

The government has so far not commented on the announced boycott.

But unofficially, sources close to the VMRO DPMNE leadership told Balkan Insight that the opposition was “seeking an excuse” to avoid “another election defeat” in March.

Opposition parties on Wednesday continued their street protests by organising "open parliament" sessions in towns across the country.

December 24 saw a tense stand-off in Skopje between several thousand pro- and anti-government protesters, separated by a police cordon.

While opposition supporters protested against the government's plan to borrow more money to cover the 2013 budget, pro-government supporters staged a counter-protest.

Media reported that at least 18 people were injured in the protests. They included three opposition MPs.

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