SKOPJE -- North Macedonia's prime minister, Zoran Zaev, submitted his resignation to parliament on December 22, and lawmakers were expected to approve it during a legislative session the following day.
Zaev had announced the move after a poor showing by his governing Social Democratic Party (SDSM) in local elections in October. Last month, he stepped down as head of the party.
Earlier this month, the SDSM selected Deputy Finance Minister Dimitar Kovachevski to succeed Zaev as its leader, and he is expected to be the party’s nominee to become the next prime minister, as well.
After parliament formally accepts Zaev's resignation, President Stevo Pendarovski will have 10 days to hand the mandate to form a new government to the SDSM-led coalition that controls a majority in the 120-member parliament.
The SDSM leader would then have 20 days to form a government that has the backing of lawmakers to face challenges from both the coronavirus pandemic and an energy crisis.
In his letter of resignation, Zaev said "it would be politically irresponsible and unjustified...to continue to lead the country along the Euro-Atlantic path."
He said he believed that another prime minister from the SDSM "could achieve that in a better way."
During an address to parliament, Pendarovski praised Zaev’s resignation as a democratically minded act.
“He does this, even though his party is in power,” the president said.
Zaev served as prime minister from May 2017 to January 2020 and again since August 2020.
He oversaw the resolution of his country’s long-standing dispute with Greece over the name Macedonia. Zaev oversaw a 2018 referendum that changed the country’s name to North Macedonia, paving the way to advance its European Union accession bid. However, Bulgaria objects to that because of disputes over history and linguistics.
He also secured North Macedonia’s membership in NATO in March 2020.
In the wake of the Social Democrats’ defeat in the October local elections, the opposition has called for early national legislative elections.
North Macedonia is currently expected to hold such elections in 2024.