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News 01 Mar 17

Macedonia President Denies Zaev Right to Form Govt

In a decision that is bound to inflame tensions further, Macedonia's President has refused to award a mandate to form a government to the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, claiming he might use it to destroy the country.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonian president, Gjorge Ivanov

Macedonia's President has refused to give Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev a mandate to form a government, despite his majority in parliament, claiming he had the potential to "destroy the country" by accepting the demands of the country's ethnic Albanian parties.

“The constitution and my conscience forbid me from extending a mandate to anyone who destroys the sovereignty and integrity of Macedonia,” Gjorje Ivanov said, adding that Zaev must first publicly reject a “platform coming from a foreign country”, presumably referring to Albania.

Ivanov insisted that the ethnic Albanian platform, which was the main precondition for ethnic Albanian parties to support any government coalition after the December 11 elections,  breached the constitution and the 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord which granted greater rights to the country’s ethnic Albanians.

Ahead of a visit of the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, announced for Thursday, Ivanov said that the international community had failed to condemn the Albanian platform and forfeited its credibility to help resolve Macedonia's deep political crisis.

The presidential address followed two days of complete silence from the presidential cabinet, since Monday, when opposition leader Zaev handed him the signatures of 67 of the country's 120 MPs, as proof of a majority, and demanded a mandate to form a new government.

Meanwhile, for a third consecutive day, supporters of the nationalist VMRO DPMNE party, which has held power since 2006, rallied against Zaev’s announced government in Skopje and in other towns.

Demonstrators also threatened for the first time to head towards the opposition headquarters in Skopje on Wednesday night. 

Like VMRO DPMNE, the demonstrators claim a potential coalition government between the SDSM and the ethnic Albanian parties would endanger Macedonia, calling for "mobilization" to protect the country.

Macedonia has not yet formed a new government despite holding a general election more than two months ago. The vote ended in a near-tie between VMRO DPMNE and the SDSM.

Over the past few days, the US State Department, the EU and NATO have all urged Macedonian politicians not to waste any more time and to form a new government as soon as possible as a way out of the deep political crisis.

The political crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that VMRO DPMNE president and former PM Nikola Gruevski ordered the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including his own ministers.

The SDSM started releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes in early 2015 that they claim contain incriminating evidence about many senior officials.

Gruevski denied the charges and insisted the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.

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