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Macedonian Opposition Party Reaches Alliance, Prepares To Form Government

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev

The Macedonian opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) has formally nominated Zoran Zaev to be its candidate for prime minister after securing enough support for a parliamentary majority.

The SDSM made the move after gaining the support of the major ethnic-Albanian party following weeks of negotiations.

Zaev will now be mandated by President Gjorge Ivanov to form a new government.

The move could help end two years of political instability in the landlocked Balkan country of 2.1 million people.

Zaev was unanimously nominated during a meeting of party leaders on February 25, the SDSM said.

"It is both my and SDSM's honor to be given the opportunity to form the new democratic government of Macedonia after 11 years of a regime," Zaev said.

His comments were a slap at former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who resigned in early 2016 after 10 years in power following a wiretapping scandal that led to massive pro- and antigovernment street protests.

In a vote last December, Gruevski attempted a comeback, and his conservative VMRO-DPMNE party won 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament to the SDSM's 49.

The remaining 20 seats were spread among parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic-Albanian minority, which is more than 500,000 strong.

After the election, President Ivanov asked Gruevski to form a new government, but he failed to reach a deal with ethnic-Albanian parties.

Ivanov then turned to Zaev, saying he could form a government if he got the backing of 61 MPs -- which he did with the support of the ethnic-Albanians.

Still, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the main ethnic-Albanian party, said it has not decided if it will join the cabinet of the ruling coalition, highlighting the fragility of any new government.

"All options remain open ... It is not in our interest to take part in the government at any price," spokesman Bujar Osmani told AFP.

Macedonia has a stated goal of joining the European Union and NATO.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters and BalkanInsight
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