Macedonia Opposition Chief Still Hopes For Solution

The head of the opposition Social Democrats says there is still time to defuse Macedonia’s political crisis and avert an opposition boycott of the March local elections.If the Macedonian government shows some goodwill, there is still time to solve the crisis in the country, the head of the opposition Social Democrats said, days after his party pledged to boycott next month’s local elections.

Branko Crvenkovski said that if the government of Nikola Gruevski showed “real political will”, a settlement could still be reached by March 24, election day.

“Unfortunately, I have not seen such will up till now,” he told Deutsche Welle on Monday. “On the contrary, we witness their utterly irresponsible and arrogant conduct.”

The main opposition party refused to submit a list of mayoral candidates by the midnight on Saturday deadline, after the government turned down its demands to postpone the elections for a month, or hold them in tandem with early general elections.

“This has been the toughest decision in the history of the party,” Crvenkovski said.

He said they were aware for the possible dire consequences for the country’s image but did not want to give any more legitimacy to the “undemocratic regime” of Gruevski.

The ruling VMRO DPMNE party in turn insists that the opposition is being irresponsible and is jeopardizing the country’s EU ambitions.

Macedonian analysts say the prospect of an election boycott makes it more likely that the next European Commission report on Macedonia in spring will have a negative tone.

“Such elections will not be accepted well by the international community [and] this will be reflected in the report of the European Commission,” the former MP Naser Ziberi said.

The EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the next report of the European Commission.

It will assess whether Macedonia has taken real steps towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name, to which Athens objects, whether it has improved relations with Bulgaria and has carried out reforms at home.

The EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, has already cancelled a visit to Macedonia planned for this week, during which he was to discuss the reform process.

Last week the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Macedonia, Richard Howitt, ended his visit with a warning that if the political crisis continued, he would ask the European Parliament to postpone a vote on his draft resolution on the country, due in two weeks, because of the possibility of a negative report.

The crisis started on December 24 when the ruling parties voted for the 2013 budget in just minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were ejected by security guards.

Since then, opposition supporters have been out on the streets, demanding early general elections.

On Monday, the State Election Commission announced the candidates’ lists for mayors and local council members and set the start of the election campaign for March 4.

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