North Macedonia’s parliament backs Zoran Zaev as prime minister

North Macedonian lawmakers have approved Zoran Zaev as prime minister late on Sunday, voting 62-51 for him to again take the post, news wires reported.

Zaev is set to return to office after he left in January, following a deal struck this month between his party, the Social Democrats (SDSM), and the Democratic Union for Integrations (DUI), the largest party representing the ethnic Albanian community.

Zaev's programme includes appointing an ethnically Albanian prime minister for the end of the government's term. The vote came after hours of debate on Sunday. The coalition partners, who already governed during Zaev's last term, agreed that the DUI would appoint someone to govern for the final 100 days of the government's term.

It would be the first time since the country split from former Yugoslavia in 1991 that an ethnic Albanian holds the position, dpa reported. Albanians have been pressing for more rights since the country's independence.

The coalition controls 62 of 120 parliamentary seats and has already passed the test of electing a speaker, Talat Xhaferi, who also served in the previous parliament.

Zaev had resigned in January to make way for a caretaker government after the European Union failed to invite North Macedonia to launch membership talks, even though the country met the key condition of changing its name to end a diplomatic row with Greece.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed an election originally planned for October. The EU meanwhile gave Skopje the go-ahead for membership talks. North Macedonia has also joined NATO since.

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