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North Macedonia’s PM Zaev steps down

By AFP
23 December 2021   |   12:16 pm
North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev formally resigned Thursday, weeks after the embattled leader announced plans to step down following the drubbing of his party in municipal elections.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addresses the press during a news conference in Skopje, North Macedonia October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev formally resigned Thursday, weeks after the embattled leader announced plans to step down following the drubbing of his party in municipal elections.

The country’s parliament formally ratified Zaev’s resignation a day after he sent a letter to the legislative body, paving the way for his exit.

Zaev’s resignation announcement late October came after months of sliding popularity as he struggled to keep the country’s pandemic-hit economy on track.

The turmoil came amid stalled talks over possible accession to the European Union.

The resignation came as a surprise to his political allies, who pleaded with him to reconsider after his government survived a no-confidence vote and added seats to his razor-thin majority in the parliament.

“It would be politically irresponsible and unjustified in front of my people and my country to continue to lead the government on its Euro-Atlantic path,” Zaev wrote in the letter delivered to the legislature.

The country’s deputy finance minister Dimitar Kovacevski is set to replace Zaev in the coming days.

Zaev, elected prime minister in 2017, is best known for the tough deal he struck with Athens to add the geographical qualifier “North” to the country’s official name to distinguish it from the Greek province of Macedonia.

The change enabled North Macedonia to join NATO and was a precondition for paving the way for the country’s possible EU membership.

Skopje’s EU dreams have since been sideswiped by Bulgaria, with Sofia disputing the origin of the Macedonian language, calling it a Bulgarian dialect.

The country will now be in the hands of Kovacevski, an experienced technocrat who largely flew under the radar until being selected days ago by a sizable majority in a party vote to lead the SDSM.

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