Opposition in Macedonia to boycott the parliament?

On 27 April dual elections took place in Macedonia. The opposition does not accept the results and refuses to take seat in parliament. These parties further boycotted the inauguration of president Gjorge Ivanov on 12 May and were absent at the ceremonial handing of Members of Parliament certificates on 7 May.

Election results
61% of the Macedonian population voted for the Assembly on 27 April. The ruling party Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity – Democratic Alternative (VMRO DPMNE) remained the biggest party with 61 seats in the 123 member parliament. The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) got 34 seats. Former Albanian government party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) received nineteen seats. Next to them the Democratic Party of Albanians will represent this minority group with seven seats. Citizen Option for Macedonia and the National Democratic Party both received one seat.

Presidential candidate of the VMRO DPMNE, Gjorgje Ivanov, received 55.27% of the votes. His opponent from the Social Democratic Union, Stevo Pendarovski, received 41.14% of the votes. Being president is largely a ceremonial function in Macedonia, which could be a reason why the turnout is a bit lower than for the parliamentary elections: 52%.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated that the parliamentary and presidential elections were “efficient and orderly”. However, they did noted shortcomings concerning “blurring of state and party activities, biased media coverage in favour of the ruling party, and reports of voter intimidation.”

Boycott of events
Inauguration of the President
On 12 May President Ivanov of VMRO DPMNE has been inaugurated and started with his second five-year term as Macedonian President. The opposition was not present during the ceremony. This is also true for DUI. Although the parties have ruled together since 2008 and they are currently talking about the formation of a new government, the party stayed absent. Next to these parties there were no foreign dignitaries present at the inauguration. During Ivanov’s speech he called “for narrow political party interests to be overcome” and called on the opposition to be “true to democratic principles.”

Members of Parliament certificates
On 7 May the ceremonial handing of Members of Parliament (MP) certificates to Macedonia’s newly elected representatives took place. During this meeting the State Electoral Commission handed out the certificates to sit in the 123 member parliament. Only 88 of the 123 representatives obtained the certificate. The majority, 61 representatives, are the members of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who have been elected. During the ceremony, opposition parties remained absent.

VMRO DPMNE and DUI
As mentioned earlier, DUI was not present during the inauguration of President Ivanov. The party is not content with the way the VMRO DPMNE candidate was chosen and therefore “will not recognize Ivanov as president”. DUI was in favour of a “consensus president”, a proposal that VMRO DPMNE rejected.

DUI’s decision to stay home during the inauguration could affect talks between the two parties concerning forming a government. There have been speculations that a condition of VMRO DPMNE to continue negotiating is that DUI recognizes the presidency of Ivanov, something the party is not willing to do. Analysts argue that this will not be a breakpoint due to an unwritten rule which states that the biggest Albanian party, currently DUI with 19 seats, should be asked to join the government. VMRO DPMNE could ask the second biggest Albanian party to join, which holds seven seats, but this would be a decrease in the majority of the ruling coalition in parliament.

Opposition
During the ceremony on 7 May four opposition parties spurned their member of parliament certificates: Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the New Social Democrats (NSDP), the Liberal Democrats (LDP) and the Albanian party National Democratic Rebirth (NDR).These four parties argue that the April elections are “fraudulent” and demand “fresh polls”.

Two of these parties hold seats in parliament: SDSM 34 and NDR one. The boycott of SDSM could “create political turbulence in the ethnically divided state and hamper its ambitions to join the European Union”. The boycott of NDR is largely symbolic and due to their one seat will not change anything. However, it does “adds weight to the opposition claims of electoral fraud.”

Ruling party VMRO DPMNE will not accept “fresh polls”, as the opposition demands. This could create a political deadlock whereby parliament cannot function properly, something Macedonia experienced in the past. This is also true at the EU level. The integration process of the country is already blocked due to a Greek veto on the start of EU accession negotiations and further NATO membership but could be further complicated: a two third majority is needed to approve EU laws and implement EU integration related reforms. However, as long as Macedonian parties refuse to resume the political dialogue a two third majority is not feasible.

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Foundation Max van der Stoel, ElectionGuide, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Balkan Insight I, Balkan Insight II, Balkan Insight III, Reuters, Balkan Insight IV, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity

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