Macedonian president hands opposition the mandate to form government

President Gjorge Ivanov asks long-time opposition Social Democratic party to form a coalition government with Albanian parties, five months after an election in the troubled Balkan country.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Gjorge Ivanov (R) poses as he gives a mandate on behalf of the parliamentary's majority to Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev (L) in capital Skopje.

Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov on Wednesday mandated Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev to form a coalition government with ethnic Albanian parties after holding off for nearly six months, raising hopes for an end to a two-year political deadlock.

Ivanov had refused to issue the required mandate for the new coalition on grounds that it could empower Macedonia's ethnic Albanians, its largest minority, and thereby pose a threat to sovereignty. Ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of the country's around two million population.

But at a ceremony with Ivanov on Wednesday, Zaev handed him a written guarantee that the coalition would not undermine Macedonia's constitutional order or sovereignty.

The obstacle for giving the mandate for a new government has now been removed — Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov

Zaev said he expects the government to be formed in 10 days. The coalition agreement was struck after national elections in December.

EU welcomes move

Ivanov's move was welcomed on Wednesday by EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and Johannes Hahn, in charge of enlargement.

"We hope that this constructive spirit will continue to prevail so that the country can finally come out of the political crisis," they said in a joint statement.

Macedonia has been without a functioning government since 2015, when it fell into turmoil over a wiretapping scandal that brought down the ruling nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party bloc.

The former Yugoslav republic wants to join the European Union but its efforts have been hampered by political turmoil.

AFP, Reuters