Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Macedonia dissolves parliament, paving the way for early polls

Macedonian deputies voted on Saturday to dissolve the parliament, thus paving the way for early elections to be called in coming days in a bid to avoid further political crises following Greece's blockade of Skopje's integration into NATO over a name dispute.

After a two-day marathon session, 70 deputies voted for the 120-seat parliament to be dissolved, parliament speaker Ljubisa Georgievski said. Opposition parties did not take part in the vote, although they were present during the session.

"I have noted that the parliament voted its dissolution and I wish you all the best in coming elections," Georgievski said.

Georgievski was expected to call early parliamentary elections by Monday, parliament officials said earlier.

The elections could be held in mid-June, less than two years after the tiny Balkan country's previous legislative polls.

But Zoran Tanevski, State electoral commission spokesman, told AFP that the legal deadline for the polls to be held "sixty days after they are called could be shortened as these will be early polls."

The session was scheduled after the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski backed the request of the opposition ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

The motion was submitted to parliament a week after Macedonia's bid to join NATO was blocked by Greece in a long-running row over the right to the name Macedonia, which is shared by a northern Greek province.

Gruevski said on Friday that the opposition parties "have been blocking the work of the parliament."

"We remain committed to our goals to join NATO and the European Union... But the necessary reforms are halted with a blockade of parliamentary procedures," he said.

Despite disappointment for not being invited to join NATO, Macedonia's officials have pledged to continue talks with Greece over the disputed name issue.

Greece refuses to recognise the former Yugoslav republic's name because it is the same as that of the northern Greek province of Macedonia and Athens worries that this could imply a claim on its territory.

Macedonia's constitutional name is the Republic of Macedonia, and Skopje wants this used in international relations, except with Athens, where a name acceptable to both parties would be found.

Gruevski's government had already been in crisis after another ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Party for Albanians (DPA), left the coalition for 10 days in mid-March before deciding to return.

The DPA's decision to withdraw from the government had been made in protest at Skopje's failure to recognise Kosovo, a disputed ethnic Albanian-majority province of neighbouring Serbia that declared independence in February.

Macedonia, a former republic of the communist Yugoslavia, has an ethnic Albanian minority that makes up around 25 percent of its population of two million.

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