North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev dodges no-confidence vote after MP goes missing
Political uncertainty remains in North Macedonia, as a bid to topple the center-left government failed on Thursday, a bizarre day that culminated in members of the opposition accusing the government of kidnapping an MP.
Conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE, alongside smaller parties, tried several times to hold a no-confidence vote in parliament against the Socialist government led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. But Kastriot Rexhepi, an MP from the small ethnic Albanian BESA party, had gone missing, leaving the opposition with one vote shy of the 61 needed in the country’s 120-seat parliament.
Just moments before Thursday’s attempt, Rexhepi announced in a Facebook post that he had changed his mind and would skip the vote.
“For the good of processes and amid strong signals from our strategic partners, the U.S. and the EU countries, which I received from high-ranking diplomatic representatives, I decided not to attend the session,” the MP wrote.
He added that the country “does not need a political crisis, turbulence and diving into uncharted waters in this important period.”
Commenting on Rexhepi’s absence, BESA spokesman Arianit Hoxha accused the ruling parties of using “threats, blackmails and other forms of influence,” and vowed to continue the fight with the opposition to “topple the regime.”
The head of the small Levica party, Dimitar Apasiev, also part of the opposition supporting the no-confidence motion, accused the government of “kidnapping” Rexhepi.
The MP later posted a video on Facebook, saying he is safe and healthy.
Resignation on hold
The ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) may have managed to cling to power for now, but the political crisis in the country carries on, with early elections appearing to be the most likely outcome.
On October 30, Zaev, who has led the small Balkan nation since 2017, announced his intention to resign as both North Macedonia’s prime minister and leader of SDSM, following its defeat in local elections. But he never actually stepped down.
Zaev’s SDSM and its allies had maintained a thin majority in parliament, with 62 out of 120 MPs. But on Monday, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski claimed he had managed to form a new majority of 61 MPs, after BESA announced its three MPs were dropping out of Zaev’s government to join the opposition in the no-confidence motion.
Zaev announced on Tuesday he would put his resignation on hold, aiming “to keep the parliamentary majority on the side of the Social Democrats.”
The attempt at a no-confidence vote, which failed because of BESA’s Rexhepi going AWOL, showed that both political blocs are now evenly matched in parliament, meaning the government will struggle to pass any legislation.
Ending Thursday with even more drama, Mickoski posted on Facebook late on Thursday that he underwent a small operation, including photos of the medical team.
“A dynamic day. Kidnapped MP, crime, blackmail, shame,” he said on Facebook. “After 45 minutes of light surgery, I feel great. Let’s move further, we are what they are not — United for a new future of Macedonia!” Mickoski used the country’s previous name, before it was changed under Zaev’s government in a historic bid to appease its relationship with Greece.