A parliamentary debate on constitutional revision in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was delayed for several hours yesterday as Prime Minister Zoran Zaev scrambled to secure the required majority of 80 MPs to proceed with a vote and pave the way for the implementation of the Prespes name deal.
The debate had been scheduled to begin in the early afternoon as government sources indicated that Zaev had managed to garner the necessary support from opposition MPs. However, the session was continually put off and had yet to begin by late last night.
Zaev emerged from Parliament late in the evening to tell reporters that “efforts are being made to secure the two-thirds majority” in the 120-seat House. He added, however, that “this must be done under normal conditions,” amid reports of acrimony and recriminations behind the scenes.
Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the VMRO-DPMNE party, which vehemently opposes the Prespes name deal and led a boycott of a referendum on the matter last month, called a press conference yesterday to rally his MPs. However, he was flanked by only half of his lawmakers as the government continued its efforts to win them round.
Tensions were further fueled by the temporary release of several opposition MPs from house arrest so they could join the parliamentary debate. Krsto Mukoski and several others had been under house arrest since last year after being linked to a crowd of protesters that stormed FYROM’s Parliament during a political crisis in April 2017.
Meanwhile, international pressure for FYROM to ratify the Prespes deal and pave the way for the country to join NATO remains strong. In comments from Belgrade, Matt Palmer, deputy assistant secretary at the US State Department, said there was “no alternative solution” other than the Prespes deal.
If the first vote is successful, then two more will follow which will also have to secure the backing of 80 MPs.
The revision of FYROM’s constitution is one of the conditions of the Prespes deal signed with Greece last June to resolve the decades-old dispute over the country’s name that has blocked FYROM from joining NATO and the European Union.