After nearly two years of intense political conflict, the Republic of Macedonia finally held parliamentary elections in December 2016. In the following I will briefly describe the problems preceding the first attempt to elect a new parliament. This is followed by an analysis of the campaign and final attempt to hold the elections as well as the government formation in the Republic of Macedonia.
Early in 2015 a dramatic spying operation was made public by the Republic of Macedonia’s opposition and led to political unrest and protests. This scandal and the ensuing events made the difficult situation of the Republic of Macedonia – that comes with the many sensitive issues in a multiethnic state, where the Slavic-Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority claim the same territory – even more difficult.
The EU forced the different political groups to settle this conflict with the Pržino Agreement (European Commission 2015) and the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski, who was widely accused of being responsible for the spying endeavors, allegedly used the information in the tapes to enhance his economic status and his personal political power. Despite the objections of the leading opposition party, parliament was dissolved and early parliamentary elections were scheduled initially for April, and then for June 2016. Yet, after the constitutional court declared the dissolution unconstitutional, parliament decided to move the elections (Mikhaylova 2016).
After this disaster, the next parliamentary elections were scheduled for December 11, 2016 and they were the fourth consecutive snap elections in the Republic of Macedonia (KAS 2016). But again, since the announcement of the election date, several issues continued to emerge. A recent analysis of the parliamentary election by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation listed several issues, among them most importantly “the disproportionate number of voters in the electoral units and the initiative to alter the electoral units“ (KAS 2016, 11). The Przino Agreement was also aimed to confront some of these problems and parliament adopted several laws that amended the electoral code (Election Code 2015).
Finally, on December 11, 2016 the parliamentary elections were held and resulted in the narrow win of 51 seats (in the 120 seats parliament) by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE and its chair, the former PM Gruevski. A contentious re-run in one electoral district was organized but did not change the overall result. The oppositional Social Democrats won 49 seats, and it seems that “Albanian voters in Macedonia shifted toward the Social Democrats in significant numbers for the first time since a 2001 interethnic conflict“ (Sekularac/Casule 2016). Within the 10-days deadline as stipulated by Art. 90 of the constitution, President Gjorge Ivanov asked Gruevski to hold coalition talks with the goal to form a new government. Gruevski has now 20 days to organize a coalition majority to win the investiture vote in parliament (Art. 90)
The only possible coalition partner comes from among the three Albanian parties, most probably Gruevski’s former coalition partner Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). DUI will be represented with 10 deputies in the new parliament. Yet, the DUI is far from consolidated as it splintered in 2015 when key members left the party (RFE/RL 2016). Additionally, it faced several new parties that also represent the ethnic Albanians as well as the shift of Albanian votes towards the Social Democrats (RFE/RL 2016). Shortly before President Ivanov announced his decision to ask former PM Gruevski to form the government again, the three ethnic Albanian parties adopted a joint platform to strengthen their claim on enhancing minority rights and better representation of Albanian demands. Among these demands are a constitutional amendment to recognize both Albanian and Macedonian as official languages and “’equal participation’ in the country’s army, security, intelligence and judicial branches and a say in negotiations with Greece regarding a dispute over the country’s name.“ (Testorides 2016) Thus, it remains to be seen whether the future actually holds a stable parliamentary majority that can implement some of the necessary reforms. Considering the events of the last two years, it would be a surprise if the pattern of snap elections, scandal and intense political disputes does not persist in the near future.
Casule, Kaev (2016): Macedonian president pardons 56 in wiretap scandal, U.S. raps move. April 13, in: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-macedonia-wiretap-usa-idUSKCN0XA1ZB (last accessed June 5, 2016)
Election Code (2015): Law on changes and amendments to the Election Code, Official Gazette of Republic of Macedonia, No. 196 of 10 November 2015, in: http://www.slvesnik.com.mk/Issues/63cc34eb402342698f7e82e59629175a.pdf (Accessed 16 January 2017)
European Commission (2015): Agreement in Skopje to overcome political crisis. July 15, in:
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/hahn/announcements/agreement-skopje-overcome-political-crisis_en (last accessed June 5, 2016).
KAS (2016): The Republic of Macedonia’s 2016 Parliamentary Elections Handbook, in: http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_21036-1442-61-30.pdf?161201152443 (last accessed January 16, 2017)
Mikhaylova, Marina (2016): Macedonia’s Constitutional Court annuls parliament dissolution. May 25, in: https://seenews.com/news/macedonias-constitutional-court-annuls-parliament-dissolution-526229#.dpuf (last accessed June 5, 2016)
RFE/RL (2016): Macedonians vote in tiny election rerun with national vote in the balance. December 2016, in: http://www.rferl.org/a/macedonia-election-vote-rerun-one-district/28195638.html (last accessed January 15, 2017)
Sekularac, Ivana/Casule Kole (2016): Macedonia’s nationalists win election: official results. December 25, in: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-macedonia-election-result-idUSKBN1412L2 (last accessed January 16, 2017)
Riedel, Sabine. 2005. Die Erfindung der Balkanvölker. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Testorides, Konstantin (2017): Macedonia’s Ethnic Albanians Want Nation Declared Bilingual. January 7, in: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/macedonias-ethnic-albanians-nation-declared-bilingual-44621387 (last accessed January 16, 2017)
 In this post the constitutional name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ is used (as it is accepted by the majority of UN member states). For the Greek-Macedonian naming dispute, see e.g. Riedel (2005, 141ff.)
 For example the pardoning of public figures accused in the wiretapping scandal by President Ivanov – a decision he later revoked (see e.g. Casule 2016).