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Macedonian Government Survives No-Confidence Vote In Parliament

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

Macedonia's government has survived a no-confidence motion initiated by the conservative opposition, which accused it of mishandling relations with neighboring countries while failing to control corruption or halt economic stagnation.

In a vote just before midnight in Skopje on April 11, all 62 lawmakers from the left-led governing coalition in the 120-seat parliament rejected the motion, while 40 opposition lawmakers backed it.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE party claimed that the 11-month-old government led by Social Democrats has used the country's institutions and judiciary to its own benefit.

The nationalist opposition party also objected to government moves to improve relations with neighboring Greece and Bulgaria as part of an effort to speed up Macedonia's bid to join the European Union and NATO.

Opposition lawmakers contended that a friendship agreement Prime Minister Zoran Zaev signed with Bulgaria in January was harmful to the national interest, while they accused him of mishandling a dispute with Greece over the name Macedonia.

"Zaev, you are leading the most inefficient and unworkable government in the history of our country," Dragan Danev, the VMRO-DPMNE's parliamentary coordinator, told deputies during an 11-hour debate on the no-confidence motion.

"It's not only me talking or my party, it's the perception of the people. This government has shown that it does not have the capacity to hold executive power," he said.

Zaev countered that his government inherited significant problems from VMRO-DPMNE, which ruled Macedonia from 2006-16 and was brought down in part by a corruption scandal.

Macedonia has been rattled by successive political crises marked by intense rivalry between the political parties in recent years. All the while, its economy has stagnated.

In part to boost the economy, Zaev is trying to speed up Macedonia's bid to join the EU by resolving the biggest obstacle: a long-standing dispute with neighbor Greece over the name Macedonia.

Progress has been reported in negotiations between the two countries. Talks are due to resume on April 12 with a meeting between their foreign ministers at the lakeside resort of Ohrid.

Athens in the past has objected to its northern neighbor using the name Macedonia, contending that implies territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name.

But Greek Foreign Minister Mikos Kotzias said on April 11 that a compromise will have to be made and both will benefit from resolving the dispute.

"I hope both sides in the talks will realize this and we will have positive results," Kotzias said while visiting Belgrade.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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