During a meeting held earlier on Tuesday, the political party leaders gave North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski the green light to search for a legal way to postpone the early elections scheduled for April 12, 2020. All parties agreed to postpone the elections, while there were some disagreements over declaring the country in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The party leaders proceeded to statements after wrapping up the session.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev requested from North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski that he set up a panel of experts to look for a solution on how to find a legal basis for postponing the elections, their re-scheduling and the declaration of a state of emergency.
According to Zaev, the Constitution defines the freedoms and rights of citizens that can only be restricted in case of an emergency and provided that the new situation requires it. Zaev points to Article 125 of the Constitution which grants the President of the State such a right.
Zaev stated that the VMRO-DPMNE did not agree with this request, but it insisted on the country declaring a crisis situation. For SDSM, however, this does not provide sufficient measures to respond proactively to the situation. The leaders agreed to meet again with the President and return to the discussion table with the experts. In general, everyone was in favor of postponing the electoral process and finding a legal basis for such a decision, and it is now only the issue of the measures that must be adopted that is pending solution.
“During this meeting, we agreed that this is not the proper time to hold elections as we must allocate all our strengths towards the functioning of health protection. We have given President Pendarovski the right to convene a panel of experts and to study the legal and ethical bases to support the postponement decision and for the elections to be re-scheduled. I believe that the consensus reached by all parties sends out a serious message to everyone. I believe that the legal formalities will be found. I believe the institutions will decide to declare a state of emergency”, Zaev said after the meeting.
As for the Government which will be making the decisions on this issue as well as whether to declare a state of emergency, Zaev added that the SDSM had no issue with the caretaker government remaining in place, as no political judgments would be made on the issue “[…] We must save money to support public health”, Zaev stressed.
He assured that SDSM had no intention of once again taking over political control of the government, but all he wanted was for the health crisis to be addressed in the best way possible.
“We do not have a specific date for the new elections because we do not know at which stage the coronavirus pandemic is right now”, Besa leader Bilal Kasami said. He confirmed that Pendarovski must continue to consult with a panel of experts which he will be setting up and whom he will call again in the coming days to decide on the postponement and the re-scheduling of the elections, as well as the type of crisis that will be declared.
“We all unanimously decided to postpone the elections because the health of the citizens is our primary concern. We just had to find a legal way to do that. What was the attitude of VMRO-DPMNE? It respected the Constitution and the laws”, said VMRO-DPMNE chief Hristijan Michoski.
He noted that there were some unconstitutional proposals to convene the Assembly the way it used to happen, but this was not in line with today’s reality.
“It is important to abide by the Constitution and the laws, as there have been proposals to convene the Assembly during the meeting, and we believe that this cannot happen at this time. Our view is that a group of experts should be brought together immediately after the leadership meeting, to make a legal decision that would seal the postponement of the elections. The group of experts will be selected by President Pendarovski and Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi, while caretaker Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski will also attend the meeting. It will be decided that the elections will be postponed, while a new date will also be found”, Michoski said.
“The Constitution provides for a crisis, not a state of emergency. The state of emergency is not regulated by law nor is it provided what a state of emergency means and what steps must be taken. On the contrary, there is a crisis management law, such as the Skopje flood law. Experts may need to declare a crisis situation for 30 days and then declare a state of emergency”, Michoski continued.
He went on to accuse the government of inaction regarding the implementation of precautionary measures, citing VMRO-DPMNE’s cautions on the financial impact a week ago.
“Now we see the representatives of some political parties saying it’s time to intervene. At the same time, we have proposed a number of measures to prevent and respond to the crisis. We did not propose measures for individual municipalities. We leave it to the government to implement the measures we propose. We will not criticize them, we will do that some other time”, Mickoski said. /ibna