In Macedonia Govt to emerge next week: Assembly head

A new Macedonian coalition government comprising Social Democrats and Albanian minority parties will emerge next week, putting an end to a protracted standoff, according to parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi.

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Macedonian parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi says a new coalition government will be formed in the coming days, ending months of political deadlock play

Macedonian parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi says a new coalition government will be formed in the coming days, ending months of political deadlock

(AFP)
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A new Macedonian coalition government comprising Social Democrats and Albanian minority parties will emerge next week, putting an end to a protracted standoff, according to parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi.

"I expect to receive in a day or two the programme of this cabinet and then to convene a session of parliament for the coming week," Xhaferi told AFP in an interview late Friday.

Macedonia has endured almost two years of protracted and sometimes violent political crisis ahead of the eventual transfer of power to the longtime opposition, which now looks to be imminent.

President Gjorge Ivanov on Wednesday gave the Social Democrats (SDSM) a mandate after they won the support of minority ethnic Albanian parties in a December election.

The conservative president had been refusing to grant the SDSM a mandate, saying national unity would be undermined by the demands of Albanian groups, before recanting after the SDSM secured a majority.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev saw his party and his allied Albanian parties win 67 of 120 seats in the country of some two million people, which aspires to join both the European Union and NATO.

Macedonia was plunged into crisis in 2015 after Zaev began releasing tapes that appeared to show official and widespread wiretapping, top-level corruption and other crimes by the government under former prime minister Nikola Gruevski.

Gruevski, who leads the rival conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, stepped down last year after a decade as premier ahead of an early election.

Ethnic Albanian parties, whose supporters account for about one-fifth of a predominantly Slav Orthodox electorate, then switched support to the Social Democrats, which prompted nationalist protests against a new coalition.

But Xhaferi told AFP that a new government would have to seek widespread parliamentary support for changes such as making Albanian an official language, a key demand of the minority parties.

"It is not enough just to have a simple majority," said Xhaferi, as constitutional reforms require the support of two-thirds of parliamentarians.

Xhaferi added he wanted to see an investigation into the violence on April 27, when rightwing militants stormed parliament and assaulted several lawmakers, to "establish the political responsibility" of those who participated.

Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian, recently faced criticism from conservatives for placing a small Albanian flag on his desk in parliament.

He retorted that the flag was "a national symbol of every Albanian wherever he may be."

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