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News 05 Jan 16

Macedonian Prime Minister ‘to Resign as Agreed’

Macedonia’s embattled PM Nikola Gruevski confirmed he will step down this week or next, but the name of his interim successor who will hold snap polls in April remains unknown.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski | Photo: gov.mk

A ruling VMRO DPMNE party official told BIRN on Monday that the party is still undecided between several candidates to take up the prime ministerial post after its leader and incumbent premier Gruevski resigns by January 15, as previously agreed.

“We have narrowed down our list between several people from the ranks of credible experts and also from our party ranks,” the high-ranking party official said on condition of anonymity.

“The name of the new PM will be revealed in due course… very soon, and I am convinced that nobody will be able to deny his credentials,” the official added.

According to the EU-brokered crisis agreement reached last summer aimed at resolving the country’s long-running political crisis, Gruevski must resign in the first half of January, at least 100 days before the April 24 elections.

He should allow his VMRO DPMNE party to nominate an interim premier by January 15 as an additional guarantee that he does not interfere in the elections. 

Gruevski told media on Sunday that he would step down before the deadline.

“On January 15, a new government will be elected with a prime minister [tasked to] hold elections. It will be preceded by my resignation, certainly,” he said.

The name of the new prime minister “will be announced after the VMRO DPMNE makes a decision”, he added.

Gruevski did not reveal what he would say about the subject to EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is expected to arrive in Skopje for a visit shortly after the New Year holidays.

“I will tell you after I tell him,” Gruevski said.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that covertly recorded tapes, which it has been releasing since February 2015, show Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers.

They insist that the tapes contain incriminating evidence against many senior officials.

Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, insists the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.

The EU crisis agreement last summer was designed to end the stand-off by putting in motion a set of reforms that would ensure free and fair elections.

Failure to organize credible elections could plunge Macedonia into deeper chaos, in which case it would likely lose its ‘conditional’ recommendation for a start to EU accession talks.

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