North Macedonia’s PM says will stay on in post temporarily

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia’s prime minister, who announced his resignation on Oct. 31 following his leftist coalition’s heavy defeat in local elections, has said he will stay on in the post temporarily to ensure the country’s political situation stabilizes.

Zoran Zaev’s decision came after his Social Democrat Union urged him late Tuesday to stay on as prime minister and party leader.

“It is important that the country does not go back to the past of quarrels both at home and abroad, to jeopardize the European integration process,” Zaev told reporters at party headquarters in the capital Skopje.

North Macedonia has been hoping to join the European Union for years. Parliament is to vote on Thursday on a no-confidence motion in Zaev’s government, brought by center-right opposition party leader Hristijan Mickoski.

Mickoski secured the support of 61 of parliament’s 120 lawmakers to bring a no-confidence motion to a vote. If all 61 also vote in favor of the motion Thursday, it would lead to the ouster of the government.

Mickoski has said if his motion is successful, he will try to form a government himself, or request early elections if he fails.

However, his slim majority of one vote was challenged after a lawmaker who had initially supported the no confidence motion indicated he was no longer in favor. It was unclear how the lawmaker would vote.

The 47-year-old Zaev, who has said he opposes holding early elections, said he would remain in office for “a short time” while political negotiations take place. He has said the governing coalition could pick a new prime minister to replace him without the need for a new general election.

Under the country’s constitution, parliament must vote to accept Zaev’s resignation. The governing coalition had a small majority, with 62 seats in the 120-seat Parliament.

If Mickoski’s VMRO-DPMNE party succeeds in ousting the government, then the president has 10 days to give it the mandate to form a government.

Political analysts believe that neither the Social Democrat Union nor the right wing coalition will succeed in forming a government, which would result in an early election, probably in the spring.

The next parliamentary election is not officially due until 2024.

The pro-Western Social Democrat Union won a narrow victory last year, forming a government with a multi-party coalition.

During his first term from 2017 to 2020, Zaev resolved a decades-old dispute with Greece over the country’s name. Greece said the name “Republic of Macedonia” the country adopted when it broke off from the former Yugoslavia, and certain clauses in its constitution implied territorial claims on Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.

Under a 2018 agreement with Greece, the country changed its name to North Macedonia and amended its constitution in exchange for Greek support for its efforts to join the European Union and NATO. North Macedonia became NATO’s 30th member in March 2020.