“Europe needs a stable FYROM guided by the rule of law. The country’s Euro-Atlantic future is at risk,” EU Council President, Donald Tusk, tweeted in response to the political crisis in Macedonia. FYROM – or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a term that is also used by international organizations such as the EU, the Council of Europe and NATO – confirmed on Friday (15 April) that it would hold early elections on 5 June despite opposition calls and anti-government protests for a delay. “Based on my constitutional and legal authority… I today signed the decision to call early elections… on 5 June 2016,” Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski said in a statement.
Demonstrators officially took to the streets in protests to the decision of Macedonia’s President, Gjorge Ivanov, to stop investigations into 56 public figures in connection to a political scandal. The political crisis started last year when the main opposition party SDSM accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of wiretapping about 20,000 people and said that some recordings were a proof of high-level corruption. The government denied the accusations and said that SDSM’s leader, Zoran Zaev, was “spying” and trying to “destabilize” Macedonia.
The snap polls were originally agreed for 24 April but were later put off to 5 June. Originally, they were supposed to be part of the EU efforts to soothe the crisis. However, the EU Neighborhood Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said that he doubted whether credible elections were still possible. Mr Zaev said that SDSM would boycott the polls, saying that the conditions for a free and fair vote have not been met. Demonstrators, who are mostly SDSM supporters, would like President Ivanov to resign and the election to be postponed. The political crisis and mainly President Ivanov’s decision to halt probes into the recordings and corruption allegations have been condemned by both the EU and the United States, which warned that the recent events raised questions about the rule of law in Macedonia and thus cast shadow over the country’s aspirations to become an EU member.