Macedonia delays date of snap elections

Macedonian nationalist leader Nikola Gruevski bowed to Western pressure and agreed minutes before a deadline expired Tuesday at midnight to delay early parliamentary elections from April 24 to June 5.

In a last-gasp agreement, the four main political parties voted 83-3 in parliament in favour of postponing the election date. The June 5 date is yet to be confirmed.

Early elections are a part of an agreement the EU brokered between Gruevski's VMRO party and Zoran Zaev's opposition Social Democrats, as well as the two leading ethnic Albanian groups, in order to clear a dangerous political impasse.

The opposition has been boycotting parliament since elections two years ago, claiming that the VMRO had rigged them through its comprehensive control over the media and the largely state-run economy.

Zaev also released thousands of illegally taped conversations of politicians, reporters and judges that he said were made by security services under Gruevski's tight control.

The opposition agreed to return to parliament as part of the deals struck in EU-brokered talks in June and July, but has in recent months insisted that many shortcomings, such as faulty electoral rolls, could not be fixed by the April date and threatened to boycott them.

The European Union and United States jointly backed the opposition claim this week.

Gruevski, who formally resigned in January within the deal from the previous summer, has been in power since 2006. After the latest development, he said "elections on June 5 will go ahead with or without the opposition."

Macedonia is the southernmost and poorest of the former Yugoslav republics that has come to global attention over the past year as a part of the Balkan migration route, along which around 1 million refugees and migrants passed after arriving from Turkey in Greece en route to wealthy EU countries.

Last update: Wed, 24/02/2016 - 10:04
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