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Macedonia Starts Revoking Opposition MPs’ Seats

Macedonia's crisis stepped up a notch as parliament started the process of revoking the mandates of absentee opposition MPs.

Parliament Speaker, Trajko Veljanoski | Photo by: sobranie.mk

Macedonia’s political crisis looked set to deepen as parliament on Monday launched a procedure to revoke the mandates of 31 opposition MPs.

The plenary session is expected to start next week, once a parliamentary commission for appointments has discussed the issue.

Spaker of Parliament Trajko Veljanoski on Monday tasked the secretary general of parliament, Zarko Denkovski, with submitting a list of absentees and has asked the commission to issue its recommendations.

“The proposals of the commission will be put to a plenary session in parliament, which will most probably be held next week,” Rafiz Aliti, coordinator of the legislators of the junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, said.

The start of the procedure for revoking the mandates comes exactly six months since the opposition MPs refused to take up their seats, maintaining that the ruling parties had won the April general and presidential elections by fraud.

Under the parliamentary rulebook, MPs forfeit their mandates if they are absent from duty for over six months.

The opposition parties, led by the Social Democratic Party, SDSM, submitted written resignations to parliament in May.

Speaker Veljanoski, did not verify the resignations and called on the opposition to return, however.

The Prime Minister and leader of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, meanwhile rejected opposition demands to had over the reins to a caretaker government pending new elections.

The SDSM said it would not be cowed by the latest threats. Party spokesperson Petre Silegov said: “We are leaving the games of ultimatums and deadlines to Veljanoski, to VMRO DPMNE and to the ruling coalition. 

“In the past six months, the opposition has been the object of much speculation over whether we will return or not. However, we maintain our stand,” he added.

Although the boycott has not directly affected the work of parliament, the dispute is damaging Macedonia’s already stalled prospects of European and Atlantic integration.

If the parliament revokes the opposition MPs’ mandates, legal experts said the vacant seats may first be offered to the next opposition MP candidates that were on the party lists in the last election. If none of the candidates accepts the seats, parliament may call another early election.

Conflicting statements about early elections have come from VMRO DPMNE lately.

In September, the coordinator of the party’s legislators, Ilija Dimovski, said the party was considering fresh elections in November.

Time would tell whether they would only be held for the vacant 31 seats, or for all 123 seats in parliament, he added.

But, Prime Minister Gruevski immediately denied that he was even considering another nationwide general election.