News 09 Jan 13

Macedonian Opposition Sets Election Terms

Oppostion says it will only take part in March local elections if ministers in charge of police, justice and finance are changed.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Recent opposition raly in Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The central board of the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, on Tuesday said that only a change in three key ministerial posts, and their replacement by people who meet their approval, will enable them to take part in the elections.

The opposition deems Police Minister Gordana Jankulovska, Justice Minister Blerim Bexheti, and Finance Minister Zoran Stavreski unfit for office.

Immediately after New Year, the Social Democrats said they will boycott the 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.

The opposition also demands parallel early general elections in March as well as increased international monitoring of the polls and a “purification” of the electoral roll. Both domestic and international observers have said they suspect it contains fictional or deceased voters.

The Social Democrats also want a new head of the national broadcasting service, MRTV, to ensure impartial media coverage of the vote.

Macedonia's political crisis 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.

Since New Year, opposition parties have continued their protests by blocking key roads and 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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