Center-left government approved by parliament

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia’s parliament on Sunday approved a new Social Democrat-led coalition cabinet, with two ethnic Albanian parties as junior partners.

The Cabinet won the vote of confidence 62-46 in the 120-member legislature. He enjoys slightly wider support than the previous government of Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev. The difference is that the ethnic Albanian Alternative party which joined the centre-left coalition and was rewarded with three of its four lawmakers securing cabinet posts.

The new Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovachevski, 47, was deputy finance minister in the Zaev government. Zaev, also 47, resigned after heavy losses in local elections last October.

The centre-right opposition party VMRO-DPMNE voted against, insisting that only a new election would give legitimacy to the government.

Kovachevski said he would focus on dealing with economic insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic and soaring energy prices.

“The effects of the pandemic and the energy crisis remain a major challenge for the economy…The government will develop a response plan to support the population and the economy to cope with the consequences of the energy crisis… and protect citizens from price shocks,” Kovachevsky told parliament.

Twelve of the new cabinet’s 21 ministerial posts went to the Social Democrats and nine to ethnic Albanian junior partners. Eight ministers from the previous Cabinet have been replaced, including Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska and Health Minister Venko Filipce, replaced by Slavyanka Petrovska and Bekim Sali respectively. On the other hand, Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski and Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi retained their posts.

During his tenure as prime minister, Zaev secured North Macedonia’s NATO membership after ending a decades-long dispute with Greece over the country’s name. But he was unable to materialize European Union membership, largely because of a historic dispute with another EU neighbor, Bulgaria.

Kovacevski said he would intensify talks with Bulgaria with the aim of letting North Macedonia formally begin EU membership talks, but would not negotiate any identity issues. Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to recognize that the Macedonian language has Bulgarian roots and that the Macedonian nation was created after World War II.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov is due to visit North Macedonia on Tuesday.

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