Macedonian opposition leader rejects early election date

Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev rejects EU-brokered deal on Macedonia’s early election date

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The leader of Macedonia's biggest opposition party SDSM, Zoran Zaev (C) talks to the media in Skopje on January 16, 2016.

Talks among Macedonia's four main political party leaders under a European Union-brokered deal for an early national election date have hit a snag after opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev told reporters on Saturday that negotiations have failed.

He said his party cannot accept an April 24 vote without a revision of the electoral roll and media reform.

"Dear citizens, for us elections are unacceptable without the regulation of the media and without proper control over electoral lists. If an election is called for April 24, we will not take part in those elections," Zaev told reporters.

According to the EU-brokered deal, which is also known as the Przino agreement, which was signed in mid-July, Macedonia is supposed to hold early elections on April 24 to overcome its political crisis that has lasted many months.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the head of the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti and the head of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH), Menduh Thaci agreed to that date.

Gruevski is calling Zaev's refusal irresponsible saying "Today four political parties came for talks and agreed on elections for April 24, 2016. Three parties were ready to make a[n] agreement and agree on all details. But one party, one man came with intention to postpone the election."

However, European Union enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is mediating the talks, says the deal is not yet dead.

"It was not possible to reach an agreement in a way that all four political parties are committed to elections on April 24, as it was agreed in the July agreement. I assume that the three other parties will stick to this agreement. By the way I expect that nevertheless all political parties are still committed to the July agreement,” he said.

Meanwhile, after almost a decade in power, Gruevski agreed to step down 100 days before the election and submitted his resignation letter to the President of Parliament, Trajko Veljanovski, on Friday, which was one of the points of Przino agreement.

The Macedonian crisis started in January 2015, after the illegal release of phone records of high ranking government officials by Zaev.

Zaev accused Gruevski of corruption, extensive government control over journalists and judges, meddling in elections and the appointment of party faithful to public sector jobs, according to the information gained from the wiretaps.

Gruevski and government officials denied the allegations, saying the recordings were completely fabricated, manipulated and claimed it was an attack on national security.

On May 9, Macedonian Security Forces clashed with ethnic Albanians, believed to belong to the Kosovo Liberation Army, in Kumanovo. As a result, 22 people were killed, including eight Macedonian police officers.

Protesters later hit the streets accusing Gruevski of attempting to distract focus away from the wiretaps.

After this operation, Zaev released another wiretap accusing Gruevski of covering up the death of a journalist in 2013, which led to more protests calling on Gruevski to resign.

On May 19, Gruevski and Zaev met in Strasbourg, France, for a 10-hour meeting about the crisis. However, they couldn't come to an agreement for a solution.

Leaders met on June 10, in Brussels to find a solution over the crisis, but they could not reach a deal and the commissioner expressed his disappointment about the lack of responsibility and leadership.

TRTWorld and agencies