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Macedonia votes in new government

June 1, 2017

Macedonia's parliament has approved a new government led by Zoran Zaev with the participation of two Albanian parties. The approval ends six months of political stalemate following snap elections.

Mazedonien Premierminister Zoran Zaev im Parlament in Skopje
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Grdanoski

Macedonia's parliament late Wednesday approved a new center-left government, raising expectations of an end to two years of political crisis that threatened to plunge the country back into interethnic conflict.

Lawmakers approved 62-44 a new government led by Zoran Zaev, whose Social Democratic Party formed a coalition with two ethnic Albanian parties. Nine lawmakers were absent and five abstained. 

Zaev vowed to pursue NATO and EU membership, which has been blocked by neighboring Greece over a name dispute. Athens demands the country be recognized officially as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The new prime minister also pledged to improve the economy, clamp down on corruption and heal simmering ethnic tensions.

"The concept of one society for all is the future of Macedonia," Zaev said Wednesday.

Powder keg in the Balkans

Zaev has said he would meet ethnic Albanian demands, including making Albanian a second official language. 

About a quarter of Macedonia's population is ethnic Albanian and the country almost broke out into civil war in 2001.

Under the coalition agreement, seven of the 25 cabinet posts will be held by ethnic Albanians.

The new government ends 11 years of conservative VMRO-DPMNE rule led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Gruevski's party received the most votes in December's snap elections but was unable to form a coalition after his Albanian partners abandoned him to back the Social Democrats.

Zaev's party and VMRO-DPMNE have had sharp differences since a 2015 wire-tapping scandal plunged the country into crisis.

Macedonia has effectively been without a government for the past six months. The stalemate was broken after President Gjorge Ivanov reversed his previous refusal to give Zaev a mandate over concern granting more rights to Albanians would damage the country's unity and sovereignty.

The crisis reached a peak last month when Macedonian nationalists stormed parliament after an ethnic Albanian was elected president of the chamber.

cw/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)