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Macedonia poised for early parliamentary vote after ruling coalition spat

Source: Reuters - Sat, 1 Mar 2014 15:28 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Ruling coalition parties fail to agree on presidential candidate

* New vote unlikely to dramatically change parliamentary make up

* Tensions high between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE, March 1 (Reuters) - Macedonia is set to call early parliamentary elections in a bid to end a political deadlock sparked by the two main ruling coalition members' failure to agree on a candidate for the upcoming presidential vote, officials said on Saturday.

The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), a junior coalition member, was angered by its larger partner VMRO-DPMNE's decision to nominate current president Gjorge Ivanov as its candidate.

DUI argued Ivanov, who would run for a second term, was not "consensual" candidate acceptable to both Albanians and Macedonians, who are ethnic Slavs.

It filed a motion on Saturday to dissolve parliament which is expected to be debated by MPs next week.

Conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE party accepted the challenge and it was ready for an early vote.

"We accept the glove thrown down by DUI and we are going on early parliamentary elections," Gruevski told his supporters at the VMRO-DPMNE presidential convention on Saturday.

VMRO-DPMNE is the single strongest party in parliament and enjoys high popularity among Macedonians. Together with DUI they have enough votes to pass the motion for an early vote.

Ethnic Albanians represent a third of Macedonia's 2 million population, and relations with Macedonians have been tense since 2001, when an ethnic conflict almost plunged the country into civil war.

A parliamentary vote could change the make up of the ruling coalition but is unlikely to result in a significant change in the composition of parliament given the opposition's weak position, according to opinion polls.

Parliamentary elections were previously scheduled to be held next year. Local media said that most probably the early vote would be scheduled for the same time as the second presidential round.

Ivanov's five-year term ends this spring and the first round of the presidential election is scheduled for April 13.

If there is no winner, a second round of voting for the largely ceremonial post would be held two weeks later. (Reporting by Kole Casule; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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