poljska sabor.jpg
Photograph: EPA/PAWEL SUPERNAK

Macedonia's biggest opposition party has pledged to boycott an early parliamentary election, a move that would stall an EU-brokered deal to end months of political deadlock.

Shortly before the Macedonian parliament was dissolved at midnight on Wednesday to pave the way for an early election, opposition Social Democratic leader Zoran Zaev said that conditions for free and fair elections had not been met.

He cited a lack of reform to reduce government influence in the media and a failure to conduct a thorough review of the electoral roll.

"In the name of democracy, the SDSM (Social Democratic Union) will not take part in these fake elections," Zaev told reporters. "We call on all citizens, students, farmers and people of all ethnicities and religions, to stand together in defence of democracy."

The dissolution of parliament was expected after all sides agreed to early elections as part of EU mediation to resolve a crisis over allegations of illegal phone-tapping and widespread abuse of office made against Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's government.

Initially, the election was scheduled for April 24, but after the European Union and the United States voiced concerns over reports of pressure and intimidation of voters, the vote was delayed, most likely to June 5.

The parliament speaker has until April 15 to officially set the election date.

After almost a decade in power, Gruevski's government was faced last year with allegations of illegal surveillance, meddling in the media and judiciary, rigging elections and appointing party faithful to public sector jobs.

Gruevski denied this and dismissed the accusations as a plot to bring him down.

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