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News 01 May 17

Macedonian President Softens Stance After Meeting Yee

After meeting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee, Macedonia's President on Monday said the problems blocking the formation of a new opposition-led government could be overcome.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
 US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Hoyt Yee [left] and Macedonian President, Gjorge Ivanov [right]. Photo: MIA

In what sounded like a softened position from his past tone, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov on Monday said the problems blocking the formation of a new government could be overcome if the new majority in parliament presented strong guarantees for the preservation of the country's unitary character.

"If there is a true leadership by the heads of the parliamentary parties, the legal and political obstacles towards determining the mandate to form the government can be overcome," Ivanov's cabinet stated after the meeting with the US official.

Ivanov has been blocking the formation of a new Social Democrat-led coalition government since March 1, when he refused to offer the mandate to party leader Zoran Zaev, despite Zaev having mustered the support of at least 67 of the 120 MPs in parliament.

"President Ivanov asks the SDSM [Social Democrat] leader to fulfill what he publicly stated that, 'together with the coalition partners they will come and provide guarantees to strengthen the unity of the state and that everything will be in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic,'" the presidential press release reads.

The President further asked the United States, as Macedonia's "strategic partner", to "help the obstacles to be removed and allow the parliamentary majority to get the mandate."

After meeting Yee, Ivanov also for the first time since Thursday's rampage in the parliament, condemned the violence that occurred there.

Ivanov said he "condemns any political and physical violence ... and stressed that solutions must be sought only through dialogue ", his cabinet wrote, adding that people should remain calm "because there are decisions that should be made with reason and through dialogue".

Yee, who arrived in Macedonia on Sunday, also met on Monday with the new opposition speaker of parliament, Talat Xhaferi.

Xhaferi - whose election sparked last Thursday's chaotic scenes - after talks in the parliament building thanked Yee and said he would try to restore normal work in parliament as of Tuesday.

Although the new majority can now elect a government without the Presidential mandate, Xhaferi said that he wished to follow the formalities and give the President one more chance to change his mind by informing him, through a letter, that Zaev commands majority support in the chamber.

By law, the President has ten days to extend the mandate after recieving the official letter from the speaker.

Yee visited a country is still shaken by Thursday's attacks on MPs inside parliament after Xhaferi's election, when supporters of the former ruling right-wing VMRO DPMNE party stormed the building.
The protesters injured more than 100 people, including journalists and at least 10 MPs, for two hours before being confronted by the police and chased away.

The Interior Ministry on Monday said it had filed charges against 15 people and had arrested some of them.

Macedonia has remained in political limbo since early elections on December 11 failed to resolve the long-standing crisis. Since then, it has not been possible to form a government.

President Ivanov and VMRO DPMNE insisted that a government led by Zaev’s Social Democrats would jeopardize the country's sovereignty because Zaev had accepted several demands set by ethnic Albanian parties. [The demands include a call for greater official use of Albanian.]

The SDSM insists that VMRO DPMNE, which has led the government since 2006, is clinging to power mainly because its leaders fear standing trial for corruption.

Several senior party figures, including VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, are already facing criminal investigations and indictments from the Special Prosecution, SJO, which they in turn claim are politically motivated.

Yee was expected to make a statement after completing his meetings with all the political leaders, including VMRO DPMNE leader Gruevski, who has denied any role in the violence in parliament.

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