April 11, 2018 / 11:33 AM / 9 days ago

Macedonian government survives no-confidence vote

SKOPJE (Reuters) - The Macedonian government on Wednesday survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence brought by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party over its handling of relations with Greece and Bulgaria.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

The vote was seen as a test for Prime Minister Zaev’s reform agenda and policy of improving relations with the two neighbors as a step to joining the European Union and NATO.

Sixty-two deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted against the no-confidence motion, while 40 were in favor.

The main nationalist opposition party has said that a friendship agreement with Bulgaria ratified in January was harmful and accused the government of lacking strategy in its talks with Greece to resolve a dispute over the name Macedonia that has lingered since 1991.

It also has accused Zaev of reneging on election pledges to improve the economy, reform the judiciary and secure media freedom.

Macedonia declared independence in 1991 and avoided the other wars that rocked the former Yugoslavia, but an insurgency by its large ethnic Albanian minority nearly tore the country apart in 2001.

The country of 2 million has made little progress towards EU and NATO membership due to the dispute with Greece.

Greece objects to the former Yugoslav republic’s use of the name Macedonia, arguing that it could imply territorial claims over its own northern region of the same name.

Debate on the motion brought by the VMRO-DPMNE, the largest single party in the parliament, began on Wednesday morning.

VMRO-DPMNE has returned to parliament after a boycott that began in December, when five of its MPs were arrested over last year’s clashes between nationalist protesters and deputies in parliament in which Zaev was injured.

Its presence is key for the passage of laws including one on judiciary reform that is a pre-condition for EU accession and requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

“Zaev, you are leading the most inefficient and unworkable government in the history of our country,” Dragan Danev, the VMRO-DPMNE’s parliamentary coordinator, told deputies.

“It’s not only me talking or my party, it’s the perception of the people. This government has shown that it does not have the capacity to hold executive power,” he said.

Zaev’s government took office last May ending a two-year political crisis that brought down a VMRO-DPMNE government.

Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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