By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Teams led by the vice-presidents of the Social Democratic Union, SDSM, and the Democratic Union for integration, DUI, met on Monday in Skopje to resume talks on forming an opposition-led government in Macedonia.
After the talks with the SDSM, DUI vice-president Teuta Arifi briefly told media that they had been “constructive” and would continue.
A source from within the SDSM told BIRN under condition of anonymity that they hoped the ongoing talks would end with a coalition agreement.
“Talks with the DUI at all levels are ongoing and we are very hopeful they will result in an agreement. But we decided not to feed any speculation until we have something solid that we can present,” the source told BIRN on Monday.
Over the weekend, media speculation suggested a deal on forming an SDSM-led government could be expected within days. News outlet 24vesti TV cited an unnamed source from the SDSM as saying that they expected to receive support from the DUI by Tuesday.
Some media outlets also cited unnamed sources as saying that the main point of discussion between the DUI and the SDSM was only whether to immediately send the list of MPs’ signatures confirming a majority to parliament, or wait until all open issues between the two parties had been ironed out.
According to these reports, the SDSM has in principle accepted most of the demands contained in the so-called “Albanian platform”, but the modalities for their implementation are still up for discussion.
“The talks are now in a very delicate phase,” the SDSM source told BIRN.
The so-called Albanian platform reached between all the main ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia after the December 11 election focuses on demands for improvement of the political, economic and lingustic rights of the community in Macedonia.
The DUI has also stayed silent about the talks during the past couple of days.
Last weekend, the DUI leader Ali Ahmeti told Albania’s Top Channel TV that he had “not reached a definitive decision on a coalition with the SDSM as yet”.
All options, including a renewed alliance with the DUI’s former government partner, VMRO DPMNE, remained open, he added.
Xhelan Neziri, from the Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP-Macedonia, says the chances of an alliance between the SDSM and DUI are realistic if they engage in honest talks.
“Such a coalition is possible because the two main points that the DUI insists on as non-negotiable – extension of the mandate of the Special Prosecution, SJO, and the wider use of the Albanian language – pose no problem for the SDSM.
“I have the impression that the SDSM is primarily interested in the SJO, but at the same time this party came out with election promises and a readiness to close all issues that produce ethnic tension in Macedonia,” he told Deutsche Welle on Monday.
The SDSM started talks on forming a government last week after their bitter rivals in Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE failed to meet the deadline to form a government.
President Ivanov then decided not to give the mandate to the opposition straight away but said he wanted proof of a parliamentary majority before handing any party or alliance a mandate to form a government.
In the December 11 elections, VMRO DPMNE won 51 of the 120 seats in parliament, while the SDSM won 49.
Either side needs the support of at least 61 MPs to have a majority. This makes both parties dependent on the support of ethnic Albanian parties who together control 20 seats.
The Albanian opposition Besa party and the DPA – Movement for Reforms, who together control eight seats, last week said they would back a SDSM-led government.
But decisive support from the DUI, which controls ten seats, is still lacking.
It had been hoped that the December 11 elections would resolve a prolonged political crisis that revolves around opposition claims that as Prime Minister, Gruevski illegally wiretapped thousands of people.
The claims emerged from tapes revealed by the SDSM in 2015. Gruevski says foreign intelligence services gave the wiretaps to the opposition in order to destabilize the country.
– See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/secrecy-shrouds-macedonia-govt-talks-02-06-2017#sthash.WOrXFuel.dpuf