PM Gruevski says ruling VMRO-DPMNE is ready for early polls if its Albanian partners demand them.The Macedonian Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, on Wednesday said the government coalition was in crisis and that if its ethnic Albanian coalition partner wanted elections, his VMRO-DPMNE party is ready.
“We do not want early elections but if the DUI assesses that they are needed, we are ready,” Gruevski said of the Democratic Union for Integration.Gruevski said that in the first three years the coalition had functioned well but in the last year the DUI had not kept its word.
“I don’t know if they felt that VMRO-DPMNE doesn’t have the same majority [in parliament] as it had before [the last elections], or something else, but they changed their practice,” he said.
“Since the last elections [in June 2011] the DUI has not been behaving as correctly as it did before,” Gruevski added.
Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party has led the Macedonian government for the last six years and has been in coalition with the DUI for the last four, since 2008.
By tradition, Macedonian governments include one major political party representing the Albanian community, which makes up about 25 per cent of the population of 2.1 million.
The latest serious problems emerged last week after the Defence Minister, Fatmir Besimi, an ethnic Albanian, accompanied by other ethnic Albanian ministers and uniformed persons, laid flowers before monument to Albanian guerilla fighters killed in the 2001 conflict in Slupcane, a village near the northern town of Kumanovo.
The act outraged many Macedonians, and President Gjorgje Ivanov and Prime Minister Gruevski both criticized Besimi.
Tensions increased after VMRO DPMNE then laid before parliament a new draft law increasing the rights and privileges of members of the Macedonian military.
This drew a strong reaction from the DUI, which on Tuesday said the same rights ought to be extended to former Albanian guerilla fighters, or it would quit the government.
Hours before Gruevski said that his party was ready for elections, Besimi said he regretted any offence that his actions in Slupcane might have caused, after meeting the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip Reeker.
“I regret if I hurt somebody’s feelings. That was not my intention. My only intention was to contribute to reconciliation… in the Republic of Macedonia”, Besimi said.
Reeker greeted his statement and described it as a step in the direction of reconciliation.