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Macedonian Leaders Reach Deal To End Crisis, Hold Elections

  • RFE/RL

Macedonian leaders reached an agreement on an interim government November 6, paving the way for early elections and the end of a lengthy political crisis.

The interim government was one of the key conditions of an agreement brokered by the European Union in June, which aims to end the opposition's boycott of Macedonian institutions.

Under the deal, all four major parties will be part of the cabinet until elections are held in April.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative party and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) will be joined by the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

The opposition SDSM and DPA ministers will have the right to veto any decision related to the preparation of elections.

The SDSM has boycotted parliament since elections in April 2014, accusing Gruevski and his party of rigging. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev also accused the premier of massive corruption and has released wiretaps to back his claims.

"This is a new beginning for Macedonia and its people... We are doing this to gain guarantees for the citizens that the elections on April 24 will be free," Zaev said after the marathon talks that led to a deal in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

"During this [pre-election] period we will develop Macedonia by democratizing its institutions, because improved democracy means that we will all be winners," he said.

Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, was also upbeat about the upcoming elections, saying his party had agreed to them so the people could decide on who was to blame for the political crisis.

"They [voters] will again show to the entire European and world public that it is not possible to win through dirty games," he said.

In line with the EU-brokered agreement, the government and opposition in September appointed a special prosecutor tasked with investigating the allegations of corruption within the government.

In a breakthrough November 5 leading to the deal, all sides agreed to appoint 12 deputy special prosecutors to help chief special prosecutor Katica Janeva probe cases linked to the illegal wiretapping scandal that is at the center of the political crisis.

Social Democrats claim that their covertly recorded tapes of official conversations show that Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people. They insist that the tapes contain incriminating evidence on many senior officials.

Gruevski insists the tapes were “fabricated.”

As part of the agreement, Gruevski is expected to resign in January, 100 days before the April elections take place.

The EU recognized Macedonia as a membership candidate in 2005 but has not opened accession talks.

With reporting by dpa and Balkan Insight