Macedonian lawmakers vote to postpone June 5 election

AP News
Posted: May 18, 2016 1:59 PM
Macedonian lawmakers vote to postpone June 5 election

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia's parliament voted in an urgent session Wednesday to delay an early general election scheduled for June 5, after a top court temporarily suspended all electoral activities.

All 96 lawmakers present backed the delay. No other date was discussed or set.

The Constitutional Court's ruling earlier Wednesday followed a request by a party in the governing coalition to examine whether the decision to dissolve Parliament for the vote was constitutional.

Macedonia has been in political turmoil since February 2015 following a wiretapping scandal, and the early election was part of an internationally-brokered deal aimed to defuse the crisis.

The European Union, which Macedonia hopes one day to join, hailed the ruling, saying necessary conditions weren't in place for the election to be held on the originally scheduled date.

The court is due to issue a final decision next week.

Only one party has been participating in the election campaign — the VMRO-DPMNE of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which heads the governing coalition. All others have boycotted proceedings, saying there are no conditions for a free and fair election.

In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the bloc's top official for enlargement, said Wednesday's decision provides "a renewed opportunity for (Macedonia) to address a number of serious issues at the heart of the prolonged political crisis."

The political crisis in the tiny Balkan country was sparked by opposition allegations that the governing conservatives wiretapped 20,000 people, including police, judges, journalists and diplomats. The conservatives reject the claims.

The crisis deepened after Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov decided to grant pardons that halted criminal proceedings against dozens of politicians, including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The pardons prompted an angry reaction from both main parties, criticism from the EU and street protests over the past month in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, and other cities.

Wednesday's EU statement called for the swift revocation of pardons.

It also urged Macedonia's feuding political parties to "find a common agreement that serves all citizens."

The appeal to the Constitutional Court was brought by the junior coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration.

Political analyst Albert Musliu told The Associated Press that parliament's decision "opens the door for another crisis."

"Nobody knows what to expect next," he said. "Many things are not clear — which government would prepare the next election, whether President Ivanov will revoke the pardons."