Macedonia's main opposition party boycotted the vote that has paved the way for early parliamentary elections. The move comes amid allegations that the government has overstepped its powers by spying on politicians.
Macedonia's parliament on Monday voted to dissolve itself as of February 24, effectively paving the way for parliamentary elections in April in line with an EU-backed deal to end a political crisis between the ruling party and main opposition.
It also noted the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who was required to step down 100 days prior to a vote.
"Our state is moving forward decisively to end this political crisis and move bravely towards the future," Gruevski told reporters. "This begins with the April 24 election."
The move comes amid last year's allegations that the government led by Gruevski's ruling party and coalition partners have been illegally "spying" on some 20,000 people, including politicians and journalists.
Zoran Zaev, the leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), released a slew of wire-taps implicating the government in corrupt practices, including meddling in the media and judiciary, rigging elections and appointing party members to public sector jobs.
However, Gruevski has consistently denied the allegations.
Democracy at stake?
"SDSM is not accepting elections without a free media and a cleaned-up electoral roll," said party official Goran Sugareski before Social Democrat lawmakers walked out ahead of the vote.
"SDSM will continue to fight to create fair and democratic conditions for having elections with all the democratic means that we have," added Sugareski.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a statement on Monday that he "would have preferred a consensual solution by all parties."
Despite being an EU member-state candidate since 2005, Macedonia has yet to open membership negotiations.
"Now it is critically important that all political and institutional actors in the country do their utmost to ensure fair elections in line with democratic standards," Hahn noted.
ls/jm (Reuters, AFP)