After a parliamentary nail-biter that lasted until late Thursday in North Macedonia’s Parliament, Zoran Zaev and his government in Skopje seem to have been given a three-month lease on life.
The no-confidence vote, called by the opposition after Zaev announced his resignation, did not muster the required majority of 61 votes called for by the Constitution, and this failure gives the governing coalition some breathing room, specifically 90 days, to pull itself back together.
It will mostly be waiting for December and the “kiss of life” from its European allies, as December has been set as the launching point for accession negotiations. The coalition hopes this will reverse the prevalent negative public opinion, as manifested in the recent municipal elections and the crushing defeat of the governing parties. If the government is given a “gift” by Brussels, then it can be hopeful going into the next elections, whenever they take place, as it can push the narrative that it “unlocked” North Macedonia’s European prospects. This European path required daring compromises with its neighbors (Greece, Bulgaria), but also with its Albanian minority – issues that were taboo for the country.
Of course, Zaev will also be able to say that his resignation was not the result of an emotional outburst and a personal political dead-end, but a calculated blackmail on his part of his Western allies, that succeeded. In any case, he will deserve his honorary commendation as a brilliant political leader.
Let’s not be hasty though. Zaev and his partners-in-government, utilizing the rushed choice of the nationalist opposition to call for a no-confidence vote without ensuring a comfortable majority, did win themselves some time, but the storm has not abated – not yet at least. We have yet to see if, firstly, the Europeans will want to save them by giving them their much-desired fixed date just as time is running out, as the many rumors in Skopje suggest, or if they will think that by giving in to this blackmail, they will set a precedent, thus inviting others to pull similar stunts. Secondly, we have to see if Bulgaria, itself in the throes of a deep political crisis with elections taking place on Sunday, can be convinced to withdraw its veto in December. All of this, of course, is valid unless something upsets the situation by the morning, that is that the opposition does not come up with a majority out of nowhere and successfully topple the government. Because we have seen many things in these countries. Things change very easily.