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Macedonia's New Parliament Speaker Blocked From Taking Office


Talat Xhaferi addresses parliament after being elected elected speaker in Skopje on April 27.

SKOPJE -- The stalemate over control of Macedonia's legislature continues after the newly declared parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi, has been blocked from taking up the post by nationalist lawmakers who oppose his election.

Xhaferi, a lawmaker from one of the three ethnic Albanian parties that has agreed to form a coalition with Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, was elected on April 27 by the alliance as speaker of parliament.

The move prompted supporters of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party to storm the parliament, where they physically assaulted Zaev and several ethnic Albanian lawmakers.

And on May 2, when Xhaferi tried to enter the speaker's office, several VMRO-DPMNE lawmakers were occupying the room and refused to allow him to enter, declaring that his election to the post was not valid because the vote was conducted outside of standard parliamentary procedures.

A Macedonian lawmaker posted a photo on Facebook of VMRO-DPMNE deputies sitting in the parliament speaker's office on May 2.
A Macedonian lawmaker posted a photo on Facebook of VMRO-DPMNE deputies sitting in the parliament speaker's office on May 2.

Xhaferi's predecessor, VMRO-DPMNE lawmaker Trajko Veljanovski, also did not appear on May 2 to hand over the keys to the office or the official seal to Xhaferi.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of parliament -- who is also a member of the VMRO-DPMNE -- announced that Xhaferi's election as parliament speaker was not legally valid until it is published by Macedonia's official legal journal.

It was not clear if or when that publication, which is also controlled by VMRO-DPMNE members, might publish the results of Xhaferi's election by the legislature.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov -- an ally of the VMRO-DPMNE party – has refused to give the Social Democrats and three ethnic Albanian parties a mandate to form a new government, even though they created a coalition with 69 of the parliament's 120 seats.

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Macedonia's parliament has been deadlocked since December, after the VMRO-DPMNE won the most votes in a general election but was unable to reach a coalition agreement with other parties.

Ivanov and his political ally, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, accuse Zaev's Social Democrats and the ethnic Albanian parties of intending to undermine Macedonia's national unity because of their plan to make Albanian the country's second official language.

U.S. and European Union officials have recognized Xhaferi's election as parliament speaker and have urged Ivanov to allow Zaev's alliance to form a new government.

Macedonia has been without a functioning government since 2015, when it sank into political turmoil over a wiretapping scandal that brought down the ruling VMRO-DPMNE.

The political stalemate has brought to a halt Skopje's efforts to move toward membership in the European Union and NATO.

With reporting by dpa
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