News in brief Western Balkans

North Macedonia PM Zaev quits after local election rout

| 2021-11-02 < 1 min read

North Macedonia PM Zaev quits after local election rout

Reading Time: < 1 minutes

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced his resignation after his party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), suffered a heavy defeat in the country’s municipal elections on Sunday. “I take responsibility for the outcome of the elections and therefore am resigning as prime minister and SDSM president,” Zaev said.

The country’s main opposition party, the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE, won 42 of the country’s 80 municipalities, including its capital Skopje. Having garnered 77 seats in 2017, this weekend the SDSM won only 16.

Zaev was viewed as a rare moderate in contemporary Western Balkan politics, Deutsche Welle comments. After wresting power from the controversial VMRO-DPMNE prime minister Nikola Gruevski, Zaev managed to solve the long-standing dispute with Greece by changing the name of the country to North Macedonia in 2018, then negotiated NATO membership the following year. However vetoes from France and Bulgaria blocked the opening of chapters towards EU accession, which contributed to his party’s rout in this weekend’s municipal elections.

The SDSM and its junior coalition partner DUI – the country’s largest ethnic Albanian party – hold a slim majority in the parliament. However the opposition are already pushing for an early election. “The governing party has lost its legitimacy,” VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said, arguing that “the best way forward is via early elections.”

North Macedonia’s next prime minister will inherit numerous crises, most notably the country’s dire COVID situation and the fallout from Europe’s energy crisis, which has led to talk of possible electricity restrictions in the West Balkan country this winter.

Sources: DW, Balkan Insights