Republic of Macedonia Delays June 5 Ballot After EU Criticism

  • Parliament cancels election date without setting new one
  • EU, U.S. laud court ruling halting preparations for election

The Republic of Macedonia’s parliament indefinitely postponed early elections scheduled for June 5, heeding criticism from the European Union that an opposition boycott meant the ballot wouldn’t be credible.

The former Yugoslav republic’s assembly, which reconvened after dissolving itself on April 7, voted unanimously to amend the election law, canceling the date of the vote without setting a new one, Speaker Trajko Veljanoski said in a live stream from Skopje Wednesday. Earlier, the Constitutional Court halted preparations for the vote after opposition parties boycotted the ballot. Angered by a wire-tapping scandal under former Premier Nikola Gruevski’s government, they refused to register, leaving his VMRO-DPMNE as the only party running. 

“This is a renewed opportunity for the country to address a number of serious issues at the heart of the prolonged political crisis,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a statement. “The way forward must be defined by all main political parties together, since it is only a mature dialogue, inclusiveness and commitment to democratic principles and to the necessary reforms and their implementation that will bring the country back on a Euro-Atlantic path.”

The standoff between the opposition and Gruevski, who has denied accusations of abusing power in a scandal tied to the wire-tapping of 20,000 people including politicians, police, and judges, has spiraled into the former Yugoslav republic’s worst political crisis in a decade. Anger among anti-government demonstrators triggered clashes between protesters and police last month after President Gjorge Ivanov issued a blanket pardon to 56 suspects in the case.

Citing an agreement between Macedonian political parties brokered by the EU last year, opposition groups have called for measures to ensure a free and fair election, including revising electoral lists they say include non-existent voters and removing limits on media freedom.

The EU also warned this week that it was concerned over rule of law and called for the government to make immediate changes. The country of 2.1 million, which is trying to join the EU and NATO, is also on the front line of continent’s migrant crisis as it’s on the main route of refugees trying to travel from Turkey, then to Greece and further on their way to richer European states.

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