Macedonia’s political parties agreed yesterday (31 August) to hold an early parliamentary election on 11 December in a step to resolve the 18-month-long crisis over a wiretapping scandal.
Under European Union and NATO pressure, parliament in May cancelled an election set for 5 June in the face of criticism that a threatened opposition boycott would call the vote’s legitimacy into question.
Party chiefs told reporters that the agreement on a December election in the small Balkan republic was reached after a six-hour meeting on Wednesday.
The country’s parliament is to officially call the election.
The deal foresees a temporary bipartisan government to ensure conditions for free and fair elections are met and would be installed 100 days ahead of the vote.
Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said opposition parties would be part of this government.
“I am glad we brought the Social Democrats to a situation in which they can no longer escape an election,” said Nikola Gruevski, ex-prime minister and leader of the ruling VMRO DPMNE. Gruevski had previously accused his rivals since the scandal erupted of trying avoid elections for fear they would lose them.
The former Yugoslav republic has been in turmoil since February 2015, when the opposition accused then-Prime Minister Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief of wiretapping more than 20,000 people.
Under an EU-brokered agreement to end the crisis, Macedonian politicians agreed last year to hold an early election and to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal.
Macedonia was among the countries that bore the brunt of a large migrant influx into the EU via the Balkans last year.
Skopje aspires to join the EU and NATO, but accession has been blocked by a dispute over its name with Greece, which has a province also called Macedonia (see background).