North Macedonia in search of new government

Zoran Zaev began power-sharing talks with two parties representing the ethnic Albanian minority

North Macedonia’s newly elected lawmakers took their seats Tuesday for the first time after the country’s 15 July elections, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The formal first session of parliament starts a 10-day countdown for the leader of the party that came first in the elections to conclude complicated power-sharing negotiations with smaller parties in search of a coalition, news wires reported.

Lawmakers met in a specially prepared parliamentary hall that allowed them to be spaced 2 meters apart, while temperature checks were carried out on arriving politicians. North Macedonia is among the most severely affected Balkan nations by the pandemic. By Monday, the country had more than 11,000 confirmed cases, with 500 fatalities since late February.

In last month's elections, a left-wing coalition headed by the pro-Western Social Democrats garnered only 46 seats in the 120-seat parliament, well short of the 61 that they must secure to be granted the mandate to form a government. Social Democrat leader and former PM Zoran Zaev said Tuesday he is starting power-sharing talks and is expected to begin with two parties representing the country's sometimes restive ethnic Albanian minority.

The Democratic Union for Integrations, or DUI, has been part of coalition governments for the past 18 years. But the party is demanding that an ethnic Albanian be appointed prime minister for the first time in North Macedonia's history, a demand flatly rejected by the main political parties during the election campaign. DUI won 15 seats, while another coalition of two small ethnic Albanian parties, the Alliance for Albanians – Alternative, won 12 seats. The centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party, which came a close second in the election, holds 44 seats.

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