Skopje. North Macedonia's political leaders have agreed to hold early elections in April, following the European Union's decision not to begin membership talks. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on late Sunday after a meeting with President Stevo Pendarovski that the leaders of the main political parties had decided that the "most suitable" date for the vote is April 12, eight months before parliament's four-year term is due to expire.
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A caretaker government of technicians will take over from Zaev's Social Democrat-led coalition on Jan 3, 100 days before the election, ABC News reported. On Saturday, Zaev had asked for an early election, speaking of his "disappointment and outrage" on the EU's failure to start membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
France, supported by Denmark and the Netherlands, strongly opposed membership talks, calling for an overhaul of the procedure to admit new members. Zaev and his Social Democrats came to power in 2017, ousting the former strongman Nikola Gruevski, who had dominated the country for a decade.
Since then, his government has poured all of its political capital into putting North Macedonia on a path to NATO and EU membership. Zaev had staked his political future on an agreement with Greece, concluded in 2018, that changed the country's name from Macedonia and settling a decades-long name dispute with its neighbor.
Greece considered that the name "Macedonia" was an attempt to steal its own Macedonian heritage and might imply territorial designs on its northern province of Macedonia. A statement was included in the accord that the current state of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia are unrelated.
The agreement was ratified despite heavy criticism by opposition parties and hardline nationalists in both countries. While the agreement paved the way for Macedonia's entry into NATO, the EU route is being blocked for now.