North Macedonia Parties Close to Deal on Technical Govt
The Prime Minister and head of the main ruling Social Democratic Party, Zoran Zaev, and the head of the main opposition VMRO DPMNE party, Hristijan Mickoski, were expected to strike a final deal at the weekend on the formation of a so-called technical government in January, 100 days ahead of the April 12 early elections.
The formation of the new government, which would require Zaev’s resignation on January 3, and the inclusion of opposition ministers and deputies in several key posts, stems from the 2015 so-called Przino political agreement.
Then, amid a deep political crisis, the rival parties agreed that ahead of every general election, a technical government would be formed to ensure a fair vote and remove doubts about rigging and political pressures.
Under the deal, the post of Prime Minister remains with the ruling party, and the Social Democrats on Friday confirmed that they will nominate current Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski to replace Zaev.
VMRO DPMNE is also expected to soon reveal the names of ministers and deputies who will be appointed from its ranks, most notably to the Interior and Social Affairs Ministries, which have been marked in the past as potentially the most likely to conduct electoral irregularities.
The talks between the party leaders were expected to go more or less smoothly. Earlier, after the opposition in parliament used lengthy discussions to block the passage of some 40 laws and regulations proposed by the ruling majority, Zaev threatened not to resign in early January, which would have likely postponed the elections.
In his reply, Mickoski warned that, in such a case, the Social Democrats “would have to deal with the people”, hinting at the possibility of street protests.
Most of these laws tackle finances, social transfers, health issues and agriculture, and have to be passed by the end of 2019 to become effective at the start of 2020, making the government uneasy about the blockade.
But the opposition insisted that the government was hurrying to pass the laws to bribe various types of voters, as some of them envisage rises in public-sector pay and pensions and various subsidies.
The matter was resolved on Friday when the opposition stopped their lengthy debates, so that parliament was able to pass most of the laws in a shortened procedure.
“If we stand by our word … there is no need to postpone the elections and thus I will submit my resignation on January 3. I believe that the same day the mandate can be given to the new PM, so that we can elect the government the same day as well,” Zaev said on Friday after matters in parliament were resolved.
VMRO DPMNE denied having ever attempted to block the passage of the laws. “It was fake news that VMRO DPMNE was stalling and blocking the laws. That was an attempt [by Zaev] to run away from elections,” the coordinator of VMRO DPMNE MPs, Nikola Micevski, claimed.
Zaev called for snap elections in October after the country failed to secure a start date for EU accession talks, due to France’s opposition at the European Council. Later, political leaders agreed on an April 12 election date, some five months ahead of their regular date in autumn 2020.
An opinion poll conducted from November 15 to December 1, published this week, showed the two parties almost neck and neck, with the Social Democrats just in the lead.
In the survey, conducted by the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation, MCMS, and the Institute for Democracy – Societas Civilis, both NGOs, 22.1 per cent of respondents opted for the Social Democrats while 20.4 per cent chose VMRO DPMNE.