Zoran Zaev announced on Sunday night his resignation from the posts of Prime Minister of North Macedonia and President of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) due to the defeat suffered by his party in the local elections held that same day. . Zaev has indicated that he will remain in office until he reorganizes the Government supported by a progressive majority in Parliament.
“It is my responsibility. I resign as prime minister and president of the SDSM […] Political punishment has come, but it is not difficult to leave politics, ”he said in a public appearance after the defeat. Zaev has stressed that his resignation does not have to lead to the calling of early elections.
The announcement came after the clear victory of the conservative opposition alliance VMRO-DPMNE in the second electoral round. In the capital Skopje, VMRO-DPMNE-backed candidate Danela Arsovska holds a clear 55% lead over the current mayor, Social Democrat Petre Shilegov, who stands at 40%, after counting more than half of the votes. The Social Democratic Union also loses many of the main cities where it has ruled, such as Ohrid, Bitola or Kumanovo. Already in the first round, VMRO-DPMNE won 22 of the 81 mayoralties in the country, while SDSM won only nine.
Before this second round, Zaev promised that if the SDSM lost Skopje he would resign as prime minister, although he would not call early elections, but would instead propose a successor from the ranks of his party. This Monday, the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski, assured at a press conference that he sees “very likely” that the next elections will be held “soon”.
VMRO-DPMNE and its coalition partners in these elections, the Alianza de Albaneses y Alternativa (AAA-AA), announced that they are working to forge a new majority in Parliament. “We got a decisive victory in all of Macedonia. We, the members of the opposition bloc, have created the basis for the future government coalition. The opposition bloc will win the next parliamentary elections, which will definitely be early elections, ”said Arsovska. If this alliance materializes, it could topple the coalition government formed by the SDSM and the Democratic Union of Integration, the largest of the Albanian minority parties. The latter obtained the majority of the votes in the municipalities populated by Albanians, compared to the other formations that represent this minority ―BESA and the AAA-AA coalition―, but lost Tetovo, the bastion city of the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia of the North.
Zaev, 47, took over as head of government in 2017 and, during his tenure, Skopje and Athens resolved the long-running dispute over the name of this former Yugoslav republic. In June of that year, the Republic of Macedonia and Greece signed the Prespa Agreement which changed the name of the country to North Macedonia. After the agreement, Athens lifted its veto against the neighboring country’s accession to the EU and NATO. The Balkan state of two million people became a member of the Atlantic Alliance in 2020.
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