EU Says Republic of Macedonia Snap Vote Won’t Be Credible

  • Premier’s party is only political force to register candidates
  • EU urges republic’s president to revoke pardon in wiretap case

An opposition boycott of the Republic of Macedonia’s June 5 parliamentary ballot will render the vote unable to meet “the minimum conditions to enable credible elections,” a European Union official said Monday.

The refusal by three political parties to register candidates before the May 11 deadline are deepening a standoff with former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who opposition leaders accuse of abusing his post to consolidate power following a wiretapping scandal last year. The political crisis is also moving the former Yugoslav republic further away from its goal of joining the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the bloc, said in e-mailed answers to Bloomberg questions.

“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,” Kocijancic said.

The worst political crisis in a decade in the country of 2.1 million people erupted more than a year ago following the revelations of wire-taps against about 20,000 people including police, judges and politicians. 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. Gruevski’s government has denied allegations that the premier or his ministers have abused their positions.

The yield on the government’s 2021 bonds was little changed at 4.812 percent, at 4:55 p.m. in Skopje, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘Strong Message’

While Gruevski, who resigned in January, is pushing for the vote next month, his ruling VMRO-DPMNE party is the only political force to have registered candidates. The opposition Social Democrats, the Democratic Union for Integration and the Democratic Party of Albanians, the latter two of which represent ethnic Albanians, didn’t submit lists.

“We also don’t want elections without an opponent, so probably the new parliament will resign on its first meeting after the vote,” VMRO-DPMNE spokesman Ivo Kotevski said by phone from Skopje. “We’d like to send a strong message who has the support of the people here in Macedonia.”

Citing an agreement between Macedonian political parties and the EU signed last year, they’ve 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.

Those concerns are echoed by EU officials, who have “repeatedly stressed the need to clean the voters’ list, ensure balanced media reporting, and investigate the intimidation of voters,” Kocijancic said.

The Balkan state is also on the frontline of Europe’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 EU states. Besides warning that the election wouldn’t be credible, Kocijancic said the bloc was concerned over rule of law in the Balkan country and called for the government to make immediate changes.

“This concerns, in particular, the need to revoke the recent presidential pardons,” she said. “Justice must prevail and must be seen to. This is the only way to restore citizens’ trust in the state institutions, to end the current tensions and to preserve rule of law in the country.”

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