N.Macedonia opposition seeks election after local poll sweep

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The leader of North Macedonia’s conservative opposition is calling for an early parliamentary election after scoring a sweeping victory in municipal polls that prompted the center-left prime minister to announce his resignation.

Hristijan Mickoski, who heads the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, told supporters early Monday that the governing Social Democrats had “lost legitimacy” and should call a snap election.

Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev announced his resignation as prime minister late Sunday after his party lost municipal races in the capital Skopje and other cities.

Danela Arsovska, a conservative-backed lawyer and economist, is set to become the first female mayor of Skopje.

According to the first official results from the State Electoral Commission, the center right opposition won 42 out of 81 mayoral races, the Social Democrats won only 16, while parties representing the country’s ethnic Albanian minority made gains to secure 15. The remainder went to independents and smaller political parties.

The Social Democrats had previously help 57 municipalities and VMRO-DPMNE just five.

Zaev, who will also step down as party leader, said he took full responsibility for poor results and but added he favors talks to form a new government within the existing parliamentary mandate.

The 47-year-old Zaev said he would remain in office for “a short time” while the political negotiations were in progress. He started talks with the leaders of junior coalition partners late Monday in a bid to keep the current 62-seat majority bloc in the 120-seat parliament.

According to the country’s constitution and rules of procedure, Zaev must now submit his resignation in writing to parliament and the country’s president before the leading party is given 10 days to form a new government.

The pro-Western Social Democrats won a narrow parliamentary election victory last year, forming a government with a multi-party coalition.

The next parliamentary election is not officially due until 2024.