The Prime Minister of North Macedonia has announced his resignation following the tough defeat of his ruling Social Democratic Union in the country’s local elections.
Zoran Zaev told a press conference at the party’s headquarters on Sunday night: “The responsibility for this result is mine and I resign as prime minister and as leader of the Social Democratic Union.”
Although the official results of the local elections had not yet been obtained, Zaev admitted defeat in the most important contest: the mayoral race in the capital, Skopje.
Incumbent Petre Shilegov lost to a center-right rival, Danela Arsovska, who will become the capital’s first mayor.
Candidates supported by the main opposition party, the center-right VMRO-DPMNE, appeared set to win at least half of the country’s 80 municipalities, with the Social Democrats on track to win fewer than 20.
In the last municipal elections, in 2017, the Social Democrats won 57 races and VMRO-DPMNE only five.
Official results were expected later on Monday.
Zaev spoke out against the early national elections and said he will support a government led by the Social Democrats under a new leader.
Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the main center-right opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, called for early parliamentary elections.
“The ruling party is now delegitimized and this is a new reality. The best way now is early elections, ”said Mickoski, after declaring victory in the local elections.
The last national elections were held in July 2020 and a new one does not need to be held until 2024. But now everything will depend on the country’s Parliament.
According to the country’s constitution, Parliament has to vote to accept Zaev’s resignation, and that is not a fact. The ruling coalition has a small majority, with 62 seats in the 120-seat parliament: 46 from the 23-party coalition led by the social democrats “Podemos”, 15 belong to the country’s largest ethnic Albanian party and one to the Democratic Party of Albanians.
VMRO-DPMNE leads the “Renovation” coalition of small allied parties, which has 44 seats, while the Alliance of Albanians has 12 and the fiercely left-wing nationalist party has two seats.
If Parliament accepts Zaev’s resignation, negotiations would begin to form a new cabinet under a different Social Democratic leader and that could drag on.
This is the first time in the 30-year history of North Macedonia that a prime minister has resigned after a defeat in local elections.
During his first term, which lasted from 2017 to 2020, Zaev settled a long-running dispute with Greece over the name of the country. Greece said the original name “Republic of Macedonia” and certain clauses in the country’s constitution implied territorial claims over the northern province of Macedonia.
According to the agreement reached with the then leftist government of Greece in June 2018, the country changed its name to “North Macedonia”, although its citizens are called “Macedonians”, and amended its constitution in exchange for Greek support for the efforts of the country to join the European Union and NATO. North Macedonia became the 30th member of NATO in March 2020.
Greece’s now-ruling center-right New Democracy party, which opposed the North Macedonia deal, has pledged to abide by it, but VMRO-DPMNE is still staunchly opposed to it.
While in power before, VMRO-DPMNE claimed connections to the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia and erected a giant statue of Alexander the Great in the capital of Skopje, despite ethnic Macedonians being Slavic descendants of people who came to the region. centuries after Alexander.
The Zaev government and the recently defeated mayor of Skopje tore down the statue and other ancient Macedonian symbols.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism