North Macedonia lifts state of emergency, paving way for election

SKOPJE, June 12 (Reuters) - North Macedonia’s president lifted a state of emergency on Friday that was introduced to contain the coronavirus, a move that paves the way for a parliamentary election.

The landlocked Balkan country introduced a 30-day state of emergency in March and extended it twice by 15 days because of increases in the number of coronavirus cases.

Emergency measures included the closure of borders, a ban on public gatherings and the postponement of a parliamentary election that had been scheduled for April 12.

“I do not think there is a need for a new state of emergency,” President Stevo Pendarovski said in a televised address to the nation.

No new date has been set for the election but Pendarovski said: “Elections in the time of the corona(virus), which will not leave us any time soon, are necessary to get a functional ... parliament and a legitimate government.”

Parliament dissolved itself in February after Zoran Zaev, the head of the Social Democrats, quit as prime minister following the European Union’s failure to give the former Yugoslav republic a date to start talks on joining the bloc.

The election is widely seen as a test of support for the pro-EU policies of Zaev and the Social Democrats.

The former ruling coalition has said it wants an election held on July 5 or July 8. The opposition wants the vote held in August or September.

“We should have elections as soon as possible,” Zaev told a news conference in Skopje.

North Macedonia, which is a member of NATO, has reported 3,364 confirmed coronavirus cases and 164 deaths. (Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Timothy Heritage)