Macedonian president hands opposition the mandate to form government

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Ivanov handed Zaev the mandate to form a government on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, as an initial step toward ending a more than two-year political crisis in Macedonia.

"As a future prime minister I am making commitment the new government will build a civil, unitary and European Macedonia", Zaev said in the party statement, after he was given the mandate.

Zaev's supporters accused Ivanov of protecting the outgoing nationalist party, the VMRO-DPMNE, from criminal prosecution after leaked wiretaps incriminated the party in widespread corruption and illegal surveillance activities during its time in power.

Nikola Todorov, an MP from VMRO-DPMNE said at a news conference that the party does not believe in Zaev's guarantees.

But he came under global pressure to reverse his decision, particularly from the European Union, which Macedonia aspires to join.

Nikola Gruevski, who leads the rival conservative VMRO- DPMNE party, stepped down past year after a decade as premier ahead of an early election, which was called in a bid to end the turmoil.

Despite pressure from the local and worldwide community, Ivanov has been withholding the mandate for a new government from Zaev since early March citing the concerns that Zaev would endanger Macedonia's sovereignty due to his acceptance of various demands set by the Albanian parties, including the greater language and economic rights for the Albanian community in Macedonia.

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The SDSM then won their support, but nationalist protesters took to the streets in opposition to the proposed coalition government.

These focused on greater language and economic rights for the Albanian community who make up about a quarter of the country's population. The new government will be a government of all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. The election led to serious incidents, after a group of demonstrators, which participated in the For United Macedonia-organised protest, stormed the parliament and attacked some MPs from the SDSM and ethnic Albanian parties.

It's the end of an era in Skopje.

However, signs of a breakthrough were seen on May 11, when Zaev said he was preparing to submit guarantees to Ivanov to obtain a mandate and form a government as a way for the country to avert deepening of the long-standing crisis.

But Zaev promised a "swift formation of government in less than 10 days" in an attempt to allow the country to finally exit the deep political crisis.

Neighbourhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn told MEPs today (4 May) that with recent violence in the Macedonian parliament he saw "the impossible", and then added "but obviously everything is possible" in the country.

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