UPDATE: Macedonia cancels early elections

Tue 17 May 2016

UPDATE: Macedonia cancels early elections

On May 18th the Macedonian parliament voted to cancel the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 5th. 96 out of 123 MP’s voted to postpone the elections again. The elections were originally planned for April 24th, but were already moved to June 5th. However, the parliament have not yet decided on a new date for elections .

The parliament came together a few hours after the constitutional court decided the dissolution of the parliament was unconstitutional. In the plenary session the ruling majority voted to replace the opposition Police and Social Policy ministers, Oliver Spasovski and Frosina Remenski, with their VMRO DPMNE deputies. MP’s from the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) left the session in protest to this move of the ruling party.

Constitutional court
On 18 May the constitutional court decided to temporarily halt the preparations for next month’s elections. The court ruled that the dissolution of parliament ahead of the elections, was not in line with the constitution. However the decision is still temporarily, the court has to issue its ruling next week.  If the court decides the parliament was illegally dissolved, this would mean a reinstatement of the parliament. If this is the case, parliament will likely discuss the postponement of elections planned for June 5th, but boycotted by two main opposition parties and the junior coalition party of the leading VMRO-DPMNE.

Only one party
On May 16th Macedonia officially launched the start of the campaign for early elections on June 5th in which only the leading party is participating. The VMRO-DPMNE party, led by former PM Nikola Gruevski, denied any accusations of suspending political pluralism. A senior source of VMRO-DPMNE said: "It is a misconception that only one party [VMRO DPMNE] will participate. Our coalition is comprised of 20 parties and that is in itself proof that political pluralism will be preserved."

Election boycott
The main opposition party, Social Democratic Party (SDSM), and the two biggest Albanian parties, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) all boycott the elections because the conditions for free and fair elections are not met. The three parties refused to register candidates before the May 11th deadline, in order to postpone the elections. The opposition parties, together with the State Electoral Commission, turned to parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski to recall parliament for crisis discussion. However, Veljanoski said he had no constitutional right to call a session of the dissolved parliament", adding that this was "a legal and constitutional rule in every other democracy".

VMRO-DPMNE leader Gruevski said he was not happy about the boycott. “There is no legal basis to be found for postponement of the elections because parliament had already dissolved and cannot change the election date.” He also said he might opt for another poll, but right after the elections of June 5th, to give the others a second chance. Spokesperson of the VMRO-DPMNE, Ivo Kotevski, said: “We also don’t want elections without an opponent, so probably the new parliament will resign on its first meeting after the vote, we’d like to send a strong message who has the support of the people here in Macedonia.”

International reactions
EU and US urged to postpone the elections. According to an EU official, the elections are unable to meet “the minimum conditions to enable credible elections.” Maja Kocijančič, spokesperson of the European Commission for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said: “Under the current circumstances, any government resulting from elections in which three major parties are not participating would not be a credible partner for the international community.”

Wiretapping probe
The political crisis started in 2015 when records were released of wiretapping more than 20.00 people, including journalists, judges, foreign ambassadors and activists. SDSM opposition leader Zaev accused Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) and the country’s secret police chief of the wiretapping. The EU brokered a deal between the leaders, postponing the elections (which were officially planned for April 24th) to June 5th. The special prosecutor was tasked to investigate the scandal and press charges against politicians involved, whom are mainly from the VMRO-DPMNE. However, on April 12th President Gjorge Ivanov pardoned all politicians facing charges in the case, in order to overcome the political crisis.

Sources: Balkaninsight, Balkaninsight2, Balkaninsight3, RFE/RL, RFE/RL2, RFE/RL3, Washingtonpost, Bloomberg