Premier Resigns to Send Republic of Macedonia to April Vote

  • Gruevski's resignation allows formation of interim government
  • EU brokered deal to break months of political gridlock

Republic of Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski submitted his resignation on Friday, paving the way for the former Yugoslav country to hold an early election on April 24 as part of an agreement brokered by the European Union to end a political gridlock.

Gruevski is quitting along with the rest of his cabinet to allow the creation of a caretaker administration that will organize the election, as laid out in a July agreement between the ruling coalition and the opposition, Utrinski Vesnik news website in Skopje reported Friday, citing parliament’s Speaker Trajko Velyanoski. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn is meeting Macedonian political leaders to work out details of the ballot. Gruevski’s party has proposed sociologist and current lawmaker Emil Dimitriev to lead the interim government.

“I hope political leaders will overcome their differences to further the democratic development of the country,”  Vleyanoski said in a statement, cited by Utrinski Vesnik. “I hope another step will be taken to fulfill the agreement and further stabilize the overall situation in the country.”

Governments are wobbling across the Balkan peninsula, a region of about 70 million people, from Croatia and Serbia to Romania and Bulgaria. The former communist nations were already struggling to overcome the impact of Greek crises and the collapse of Russian demand for their exports when they became the main route for refugees from the Middle East.

Wiretaps, Clashes

Macedonia was plunged into its worst political crisis in a decade nine months ago, when the government came under pressure over the leak of alleged wiretaps that purported to show abuses of power by officials including Gruevski, which the government has denied.

The administration endured further woes in May when police clashed with armed groups the government described as Albanian terrorists in the northeastern town of Kumanovo, leaving 22 dead.

Opposition Leader

The agreement reached with the opposition includes “the prime minister’s resignation 100 days before the elections,” Gruevski said in a statement published on the government’s website late on Thursday. “The 100 days expire on April 24, the day when the elections were agreed to be held.”

Leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, accused Gruevski of stalling key reforms that could have ensured fair elections, such as revising the electoral roll and changes in media law.

Zaev urged Macedonians “to return our freedom, democracy, justice and European values to our country,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “Let’s raise Macedonia to a higher economic level.”

The yield on 500 million euros ($544 million) of government bonds maturing in July 2021 rose five basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 5.149 percent at 12:52 p.m. in Skopje, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gruevski’s party nominated him to run again for the prime minister’s office in the snap election, it said in a statement on its website Friday. Gruevski, who’s been in power for 10 years, leads with the support of 33.3 percent of respondents in an opinion survey conducted by Brima TNS Gallup International among 1,007 people published on Dec. 13. Zaev has the backing of 22 percent, according to the survey, which gave no margin of error.

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