Macedonia opposition to boycott elections
SKOPJE - Agence France-Presse
In this picture taken late Wednesday, April 6, 2016, the leader of the opposition Social-Democrats Zoran Zaev, center, speaks for the media at the party headquarters in Skopje, Macedonia - AP photoMacedonia's main opposition party said it will boycott a "sham" election in June, as parliament dissolved ahead of the vote which is supposed to end a political crisis.
The June 5 election is part of a European Union-backed deal reached last year between the government and the opposition to end months of turmoil.
But Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), said late April 6 that his party would boycott the election, alleging a lack of reforms required for a fair vote.
"The SDSM is not going to participate in the sham election on June 5," Zaev told a press conference before parliament dissolved at midnight.
"Elections without freedom, under pressure, without media reforms, without a cleaned-up electoral roll, are false, unfair and undemocratic and that is why the opposition SDSM is not going to participate."
The vote in the former Yugoslav republic of about 2.1 million people had initially been scheduled for April 24, but the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party agreed to postpone it after US and EU ambassadors said preparations for "credible" polls were insufficient.
The SDSM boycotted parliament after Macedonia's last election in 2014, won by VMRO-DPMNE, saying the polls had been marred by fraud.
The crisis deepened last year when the opposition accused the then premier Nikola Gruevski of widespread wire-tapping and high-level corruption.
The government denied the allegations, accusing Zaev of spying and of trying to destabilise the country.
The row triggered rival protests on the streets of Skopje and eventually prompted the European Union to step in and mediate.
Gruevski stepped down from the post of prime minister in January to pave the way to the election, in accordance with the deal.
Two SDSM members who became part of an interim government in the run-up to the election submitted their resignations to parliament on April 6.
Macedonia has been an EU candidate nation since 2005 but has yet to open membership negotiations.
The election comes after hundreds of thousands of migrants have passed through Macedonia from Greece on their way to seek new lives in western Europe.
Since countries further up the so-called Balkan route shut their borders to migrants last month, Macedonian security forces at the frontier with Greece have been tasked with preventing any further influx.