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Macedonia’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party has rubbished reports that the EU seeks a postponement of the March local elections.
Opposition Social Democrats threaten to boycot local elections
Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party on Thursday denied that the Director-General of Enlargement at the European Commission, Stefano Sannino, is pushing for local elections to be postponed.
“Sanino never asked for a postponement of the elections. On a contrary, he asked for the opposition to return to parliament,” the party said on Thursday.
The party insists that local elections will go ahead on March 24, and there will be no parallel early general election, as opposition Social Democrats demand.
Unnamed diplomats cited by Deutsche Welle reportedly said that Sannino, who arrived unannounced on Tuesday, had pushed for a “slight” postponement of the polls.
He apparently wanted a commission of experts, led by a foreigner, to investigate the incident in parliament on December 24 that triggered the latest political crisis.
The findings would allegedly inform an important European Commission report on Macedonia due in spring.
On December 24, the ruling parties voted for the 2013 budget in just minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were ejected from the assembly by security guards.
Since then, opposition supporters have been out on the streets, staging protests and demanding early elections. If not, they threaten to boycott the local elections.
Many fear that the crisis could derail the country’s EU agenda entirely.
On Thursday, the mission heads of the European Union, the NATO Liaison Office, the OSCE, and the United States embassy in Skopje issued a joint statement expressing “great concern” about the situation.
“We strongly urge all sides to enhance the political dialogue to that end, to focus on the country's strategic priorities,” the statement reads.
The EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the spring report of the European Commission.
“The situation is a very serious and grave one, for the country and for the country’s future in Europe,” the European Parliament rapporteur for Macedonia, Richard Howitt, who is also in the country attempting to kick-start political dialogue, said on Thursday.
The deadline to submit lists of candidates for the local elections expires on Saturday at midnight until when it will become clear whether the opposition will act on threats to boycott the election.
The EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, is also due to arrive next week, but his mission will come too late to affect the local elections deadline.
The Director-General of Enlargement at the European Commission, Stefano Sannino, on Tuesday arrived on a surprise visit to Macedonia to try to resolve the ongoing political crisis.
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