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News 27 Apr 17

US Official Visits Macedonia As Deadlock Continues

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee will arrive in Macedonia on Monday as the political gridlock continues over the election of a new opposition-led government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee in Skopje. Archive photo: MIA

During his stay in Macedonia, Yee will meet political leaders to discuss the formation of a new government, bilateral ties and reforms needed for Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration, the US embassy in Skopje said.

Yee is expected to press for an end to the political stalemate and to the institutional blockade that has prevented the election of a new opposition-led government since the December elections.

The political stalemate is the result of filibustering by MPs from the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party in parliament, backed by the President, Gjorge Ivanov, who refuses to award the mandate for a new government to the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, despite their majority in parliament.

Mitko Gadzovski, a political science professor at the Skopje Social Sciences Faculty, said he felt optimistic.

"After Yee's meetings with party leaders on Monday, it will become more certain that the way out of the crisis will be found through an institutional way, through the election of a new speaker of parliament and then a new government," he said.

Gadzovski told Radio Free Europe that he suspected that VMRO DPMNE might yield and end its blockade after Yee's visit based on past experiences of Yee's involvement in Macedonia.

He noted that several VMRO DPMNE ministers had resigned in May 2015, shortly after Yee's visit, when he demanded that officials take responsibility for the illegal surveillance scandal in which they were implicated.

However, President Ivanov looks set to avoid meeting the US official, after his cabinet insisted he was too busy.

On March 22, Ivanov avoided meeting the visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

Yee will be the first senior US official to visit Macedonia since the December 11 elections that it was hoped would resolve the long-standing political crisis.

His visit comes after several EU officials failed to persuade President Ivanov to respect the election result and stop withholding the mandate for the formation of new government from the opposition.

Pressure has grown on the Social Democrats, who with their ethnic Albanian partners control 67 of the 120 seats in parliament, to take action to end the parliamentary blockade.

Amid threats from VMRO DPMNE supporters that they will never allow this, fears have grown that the situation could escalate into violence.

The President and VMRO DPMNE insist that an SDSM-led led government would jeopardize the country's sovereignty, because it has accepted several demands for reform set by the ethnic Albanian parties.

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 facing criminal investigations and indictments by the Special Prosecution, SJO, which they claim are politically motivated.

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