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Northern Macedonia Politics

State and politics

GOVERNMENT

The Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia was adopted in November 1991. The legislative power is exercised by Parliament (Sobranie) with 120 members, elected for four years, and three members elected by Macedonians residing abroad. The President of the Republic is elected in direct elections of five years and may be re-elected. The executive is exercised by the government. The president appoints government leaders. The government is approved by Parliament and can be dismissed through a declaration of confidence.

Political System of Northern Macedonia

Policy

During and after the Kosovo War, there was a fear that the conflict would spread from Kosovo to Macedonia with its large Albanian minority, a concern that was true in connection with the clashes between government forces and the Albanian guerrilla group UK in the spring of 2001. Following the so-called Ohrid agreement in August 2001, which meant increased rights for the Albanian people, the calm was restored. See also the Yugoslav War (Macedonia conflict).

Since independence, two major parties have been touring coalition governments, both Slav-Macedonian Conservative and Nationalist VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity), and Social Democratic SDSM (Macedonian Social Democratic Union), also Slavic dominated. In the coalition governments, the Albanian minority has also been represented, usually in the form of BDI (the Democratic Union for Integration), which is the largest Albanian party.

The political turbulence has been extensive in recent years. The new election to be held in April 2016 was postponed several times. The country's political opposition to the since-2006 VMRO-DPMNE-dominated government claimed that the conditions for holding a fair democratic election were so unlucky that they were threatened with electoral boycotts. Both the EU and the United States appealed to the government to postpone the election. The crisis worsened when President Gjorge Ivanov in April allowed 56 people suspected of being involved in a scandal.

As president, Ivanov was expected to stand outside party politics, but he had on several occasions supported VMRO-DPMNE. Among the pardoned were a number of politicians, including Nikola Gruevski (born 1970), who resigned as prime minister in early 2016 and thereafter as party leader for VMRO-DPMNE 2017. The decision on early pardon triggered widespread protests and demonstrations.

After powerful condemnations from the outside world and objections from the Constitutional Court, the disputed pardons were withdrawn. Through mediation of the EU and the US, the major parties managed to reach a new agreement to resolve the political deadlock. Among other things, voting lengths would be cleared and the media given the opportunity to work freely. The postponed elections were held in December and resulted in a deterioration of support for both VMRO-DPMNE and the BDI coalition partner. Despite the dismal numbers, they looked 39 percent and 8 percent, respectively, to be able to re-form government, but when BDI refused to continue working with VMRO-DPMNE, a political deadlock again emerged.

After more than five months of intense political debate and open opposition from President Ivanov, finally, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev (born 1974) was commissioned to form a new government. In addition to SDSM, the coalition government that took office in June 2017 included the two Albanian parties BDI and the newly formed Albanian Alliance.

The EU and the US cautiously made a positive statement about the new government, while the Russian Federation took a more critical stance. Prime Minister Zaev pledged to work for economic reforms and diminished conflicts between Macedonians and Albanians, to take action against widespread corruption and to continue work for Macedonian membership in the EU and NATO. Following the agreement with Greece on a change of the country's name to Northern Macedonia (see the Names issue below), the European Commission had recommended that negotiations on membership of the Union be initiated. Despite this, it was decided at the EU Summit in Brussels in October 2019, following a French veto, that membership negotiations would be postponed in the future. At the same time, in February 2019, NATO decided that the country should become the 30th member of the organization, a decision which, however, is not ratified by all NATO member states.

As a result of the failed EU negotiations, Zoran Zaev announced new elections until April 12, 2020. On January 3, 2020, Zoran Zaev resigned and a technocrat government under former Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski took over to prepare for the election.

On May 12, 2019, lawyer Stevo Pendarovski took over the presidency following Gjorge Ivanov, who has served two terms of office and could not be re-elected. Pendarovski, who is SDSM's candidate, won in a second election round with 52 percent of the vote against VMRO-DPMNE's Gordana Siljanovska, who got 45 percent.

In the mid-2010s, at the same time as the government crises, a large number of migrants from mainly Syria came to Macedonia on their way to countries further north in Europe. In September 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner expressed great concern that Macedonia "systematically" deprived of liberty and deported migrants, including many children. In March 2016, Macedonia closed its border in accordance with the EU-Turkey agreement. However, smaller groups continued to try to cross the border from Greece.

The name issue

The political situation in what is today Northern Macedonia has often been difficult, not least because of ethnic conflicts in the area and the neighboring countries' sometimes hostile attitude to the country. A conflict arose in 1991 when the official name of the Republic of Macedonia was adopted and the Constitution stated that it also represented Macedonians outside the country's borders. Against this and the design of the country's flag, Greece, but also Bulgaria, protested. The countries pointed out that Macedonia is an old region and that much of it lies in these countries.

Despite the mediation of the UN, the conflict was long unresolved. As an official term in the UN and many other international contexts, FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) was used. Over time, however, more and more countries, including Sweden, accepted the name Republic of Macedonia.

Following the change of government in Skopje 2017, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras 2018 could sign an agreement stating that Greece would not prevent Macedonian membership of the EU and NATO if the country changed its name to Northern Macedonia. The proposal was approved in two votes in Parliament, but President Gjorge Ivanov vetoed it. In September 2018, a referendum was held on the issue. More than 91 per cent of the voters supported the proposal, but since the no-side called for a boycott, voter participation was only 37 per cent, that is clearly below the 50 per cent required for the result to be valid.

Before a vote in Parliament in October 2018, the government had managed to convince several members of the opposition to support the proposal, which was approved by the 80-39 vote; thus the requirement of a two-thirds majority was achieved. In a new vote in January 2019, 81 members voted for the constitutional amendments required for a change of name; as the nationalist opposition party VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization - Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity) boycotted the process, no one voted against the proposal. At the end of January, the Greek Parliament also approved the agreement between the countries.

On February 12, 2019, Macedonia changed its formal name to Northern Macedonia.

Judiciary

Despite independence achieved, Macedonia continues to use the laws of the Yugoslav era in the absence of alternatives. Legal reforms in the market economy direction are partly being implemented. The death penalty was abolished in 1991.

Heads of State

Presidents

1990-99 Kiro Gligorov
1999-2004 Boris Trajkovski
2004-09 Branko Crvenkovski
2009-19 Gjorge Ivanov
2019- Stevo Pendarovski
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