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North Macedonia’s opposition wants early elections, stalls parliament

The North Macedonian Parliament in its capital Skopje (WikiMedia Commons)

The biggest opposition party in North Macedonia, VMRO-DPNME has started an ‘active blockade’ of the North Macedonian Parliament. It is angered by the decision of North Macedonian PM Dimitar Kovacevski not to organize early polls. Currently, these are scheduled to be held in 2024.

An active blockade

 “The active blockade is a consequence, a reaction to the move made by the government of Kovacevski, who failed to show a sense of statehood and refused any opportunity for dialogue over the country’s most important questions,” said MP Nikola Micevski, the coordinator of the VMRO-DPMNE parliamentary caucus. The party says it eyes the usage of ‘filibusters’ to stall legislative procedures. Through a ‘filibuster’, an MP prolongs debates to delay or even entirely prevent eventual decisions.

The party said that this is a first step and that it will possibly organize street blockades or mass protests in their bid to organize early elections. Since 2017, when the VMRO-DPMNE lost power, they repeatedly engaged in blocking the parliament, causing many important bills to be stuck in North Macedonia’s parliament.

Many challenges

Meanwhile, North Macedonia could very well use an effective parliament as it challenges problems in its economy, healthcare, education and foreign policies. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has inflated prices in the country, and Kovacevski’s party Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) eyes planned budget cuts to counter future problems in the country’s expenditure. However, this could be difficult as he only has a majority of 4 MP’s in North Macedonia’s 120 MP parliament.

“I have said it many times and I will repeat it. Elections will be held in the regular term, in 2024” Kovacevski said. “The demand for early elections was absurd as the country is in the middle of a serious crisis caused by the pandemic, the economic downturn and the war in Ukraine, which demands work and a functioning government, not political campaigning.”

Stalling EU accession

North Macedonia also suffers from another blockade; Bulgaria keeps refusing its bid to enter the EU due to a variety of cultural and economic issues. Despite optimism at the beginning of the year, North Macedonia is still blocked by its eastern neighbor. The country is a candidate member since 2005, and eagerly awaits admission.

Amid geopolitical uncertainty, the EU should pursue an assertive, active policy regarding North Macedonia. The stalling EU accession enormously hampers domestic political legitimacy. Parties such as VMRO-DPMNE that push for early elections, ‘filibusters’ and protests only exacerbate societal instability in the Western Balkans.

Sources: Balkan Insight Al Jazeera Balkans Nezavisne

Photo: WikiMedia Commons