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North Macedonia: Center-left government OK’d by parliament

January 16, 2022 GMT

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia’s parliament on Sunday approved a new coalition Cabinet led by the Social Democrats, with two ethnic Albanian parties as junior partners.

The Cabinet won the confidence vote 62-46 in the 120-member legislature. It enjoys somewhat broader support than the previous government of Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev. The difference is the ethnic Albanian Alternative party which joined the center-left coalition and was rewarded with three of its four lawmakers getting Cabinet posts.

North Macedonia’s new prime minister, Dimitar Kovachevski, 47, was a deputy finance minister in the Zaev government. Zaev, also 47, stepped down after heavy losses in local elections last October.

The center-right opposition VMRO-DPMNE party voted against it, insisting that only a new election would give the government legitimacy.

Kovachevski said he will focus on dealing with economic insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic and steep rises in energy prices.

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“The effects of the pandemic and the energy crisis remains a major challenge for the economy ... The government will devise an intervention plan to support the population and the economy to deal with the consequences of the energy crisis...and protect citizens from price shocks”, Kovachevski told parliament.

Twelve of the new Cabinet’s 21 ministerial posts went to the Social Democrats and nine to ethnic Albanian junior partners. Eight ministers from the previous Cabinet were replaced, including defense minister Radmila Shekerinska and health minister Venko Filipce, replaced by Slavyanka Petrovska and Bekim Sali, respectively. By contrast, interior minister Oliver Spasovski and economy minister Kreshnik Bekteshi retained their posts.

During his term as prime minister, Zaev secured North Macedonia’s membership in NATO after ending a decades-long dispute with Greece over the country’s name. But he was unable to deliver on European Union membership, largely due to a historic dispute with another EU neighbor, Bulgaria.

Kovacevski said he will intensify talks with Bulgaria in a bid to let North Macedonia formally start EU accession talks, but will not negotiate any identity issues. Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to recognize that the Macedonian language has Bulgarian roots, and that the Macedonian nation was created after World War Two.

Bulgarian Prime minister Kiril Petkov is scheduled to visit North Macedonia on Tuesday.