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News 17 May 17

Zaev Wins Mandate to Form Macedonia's Next Govt

President Gjorge Ivanov finally offered Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev a mandate to form a new government at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev [left] and Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov [right]. Photo: MIA

After several months of refusing to do so, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov on Wednesday finally awarded the mandate for forming a government to the Social Democrat leader, Zoran Zaev, removing all remaining obstacles for a peaceful transfer of power.

Ivanov, who came under international pressure after withholding the offer of a mandate to Zaev since March, said at a short ceremony in his office: "The obstacles for awarding the mandate for a new Macedonian government have been removed."

Zaev reiterated the guarantees he had previously given to the President that he would ensure the preservation of the unitary character and territorial integrity of Macedonia.

In the name of the new majority in parliament, "We guarantee protection of unity,  sovereignty and territorial integrity [of Macedonia]," Zaev said.

The prolonged political power struggle had left Macedonia without new government since the December 11 early general election.

President Ivanov has been withholding the mandate for new government to Zaev since early March, despite Zaev having by then mustered a majority in parliament with the support of the main ethnic Albanian parties.

Like the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, Ivanov insisted that should Zaev come to power, he would endanger the country's sovereignty due to his acceptance of various demands set by the ethnic Albanian parties.

These focused on greater language and economic rights for the Albanian community who make up about a quarter of the country's population.

Zaev insisted this was just an excuse - and that VMRO DPMNE, which has led the government since 2006, was only clinging to power to avoid criminal investigations.

The election of an ethnic Albanian, Talat Xhaferi, as new speaker of parliament in April 27 was seen as the turning point in the Macedonian crisis.

That day, the new majority in the chamber, led by the Social Democrats, elected Xhaferi as speaker, overcoming a more than month-long blockade of the constitutive session imposed by VMRO DPMNE.

Minutes later, however, supporters of the VMRO DPMNE party stormed the parliament, injuring some 100 people, including 10 MPs from the new majority.

The violence was seen as a staged prelude to greater violence that would then justify declaring martial law and suspending the transfer of power. However, this did not happen.

Under international pressure, VMRO DPMNE was forced to condemn the rampage and President Gjorge Ivanov also softened his opposition to Zaev.

The new parliamentary majority has the support of 67 of the 120 MPs. Zaev has anounced that he will try to form the new government by the end of this month at the latest.

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