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News 15 Dec 16

Post-Election Tension Nears Danger Level in Macedonia

Tension in Macedonia following Sunday's tight election is growing, as both main political blocs claim victory at the polls and each side's patience starts to run out.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
 
 Ruling VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski. Photo: MIA

Far from resolving the long-standing political crisis in Macedonia, Sunday's tight election outcome hints at an even tenser situation that could easily spill over into violent incidents, observers warn.

"We have a tie position in both political blocs, numerous combinations for assembling a new government and a serious threat of ethnic conflict among Macedonians," political analyst Daut Dauti told Deutsche Welle.

Tension on the ground between the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the main opposition Social Democratic Union, SDSM, led by Zoran Zaev is already dangerous, experts say.

On Tuesday night, in the northern town of Kumanovo, special police units entered the home of local police chief Stojance Velickovic, reportedly in search of alleged evidence of election rigging.

Velickovic, who was appointed by the now outgoing interim Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, who comes from the ranks of the opposition, said the whole event was a set-up organized by the VMRO DPMNE party.

Local residents and opposition supporters gathered in front of Velickovic's home in his defence, before he came out to assure people that he would not be arrested.

The stand-off there comes after both the ruling and opposition parties on Monday accused each other of trying to steal the election and exchanged threats.

After the State Election Commission, DIK on Monday said preliminary unofficial results showed that VMRO DPMNE had won 51 of the 120 seats in parliament and the SDSM had won 49, the opposition demanded a repeat vote in some areas where they detected irregularities.

Zaev warned that Gruevski must not be allowed to form a government before such irregularities are addressed, adding that both parties could either end up having 50 MPs or that the opposition could yet have one more MP than VMRO DPMNE.

VMRO DPMNE official Vlatko Gjorcev responded to this with a threat.

"VMRO DPMNE does not plan to allow Zaev and a handful of people around him to steal the democratic will of 453,000 citizens. If someone tries to steal that, their patience will grow into anger," he told a press conference on Tuesday.

The SDSM won just a few fewer votes than VMRO DPMNE, almost 437,000 thousand.

Meanwhile, as the DIK readies to hold an open session on Thursday to decide on the opposition parties' complaints, there are calls on social networks for ruling party supporters to gather in front of the DIK building Skopje as a form of additional pressure.

Observers fear even a small spark right now could start a fire.

Former Macedonian ambassador to Albania Eleonora Karanfilovska Ratcliff said Gruevski - who along with his party leadership are under investigation for high-level crimes by the Special Prosecution - will use every opportunity to stay in power.

"Gruevski's power is seriously compromised but 'Gruevski-ism' - a system of firm rule and corruption with a wide number of supporters in all social spheres and at all levels of governance, which has created many 'pawns' - is still very present," she wrote on Facebook.

"These soldiers of Gruevski will be the strongest barrier against any change ... in defending their own positions, not that of the party, they will be brutal in their self-defence," Karanfilovska Ratcliff warned.

Constitutional Law Professor Svetomir Skaric sees the only way out in a formation of a technical government that would prepare the country for yet another election.

"A non-party person that would form the new government is a necessity because with this election outcome none of the parties has the legitimacy to impose itself and [and name a new] Prime Minister," Skaric said.

Under the constitution, the new parliament should be established by the end of this month at the latest. The deadline for forming a government is February 16.

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