Macedonian parliament dissolved, early elections by June

The Macedonian parliament, after a two-day debate to end a paralysing political crisis, voted Saturday to dissolve itself, triggering early parliamentary elections. ( dpa )

The move also means the dissolution of the coalition government.

Parliament speaker Ljubisa Georgievski said elections would be held on June 1.

"I have the honor to let the Macedonian people know when the elections will be held. I choose June 1," Georgijevski told reporters.

Under the country's constitution, elections were to be held by mid-June at the latest.

Georgijevski was expected to announce the election date on Monday, but opted to do so on Saturday.

Seventy of the 120 legislators backed the motion to dissolve parliament and pave the way for polls.

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's nationalist VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), supported the motion, filed by the opposition Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) of the former Albanian rebel chief, Ali Ahmeti.

The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), along with few smaller parties and independent deputies opposed and boycotted the vote.

They criticized the plan to call early elections as a bid to avoid responsibility in the face of the reform requirements in the country's bid to join NATO and the European Union.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on the other hand accused the opposition of blocking the daily working of parliament and state institutions.

President Branko Crvenkovski was against dissolving parliament, warning the country needed political stability and a consensus between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.

Crvenkovski added that the United States and the EU were also against new elections, as Macedonian needed to continue its reforms and negotiations with Greece over the row over the country's name.

Macedonia tottered on the verge of civil war when Albanian nationalist Ahmeti launched an insurgency in 2001.

The conflict was ended when the West brokered a broad peace and reform deal giving the Albanians, or roughly 25 per cent of the 2 million Macedonians, more rights.

But tensions persist and when Macedonia was not invited to join NATO at its most recent summit, the majority Slavic Macedonians were bitterly disappointed and worried, as they see NATO as a guarantee that their country will not be dismembered along ethnic lines.

The restive Albanian community dominates the north-western part of the country, along borders with Albania proper and Kosovo, which is 90 per cent Albanian.

There are some 6 million Albanians in the region of Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, and many among them aspire to live in a common state.

US President George W Bush promised Macedonia an invitation to join NATO as soon as it resolves its dispute with Greece in talks due to continue under UN auspices.

Greece effectively vetoed Macedonia's bid to join NATO in a long- running dispute over Macedonia's official name. Athens maintains that allowing its northern neighbour to call itself " Macedonia" would imply a territorial claim on the Greek province of the same name.

All Macedonian parties in the outgoing parliament said they would back the country's negotiators with Greece.

The diplomatic effort, held under the auspices of UN, would continue Thursday with the visit of the special mediator, Matthew Nimetz, to Skopje and Athens, local reports said.

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