Afrim Gashi from the Alternative Party was elected Speaker of the newly constituted Parliament today. Gashi received 76 votes in favor, and six representatives from Levica voted against him – he received the votes of VMRO-DPMNE and VLEN members of Parliament.

I will not allow any member of Parliament to feel discredited. We will prove that we are the best portrayal of our society. I have my political opinions, but as Speaker, I will make sure that our society flourishes through freedom of expression. With a new Parliament and a new majority that will form a new Government, we have a new perspective. To stop the exodus of the young, to bring back many of our emigrants. We will not debate the past, it is up to the historians, and it is up to the politicians to improve the future, said Gashi.

This is the first formal joint vote of the new ruling coalition, that is in the final stages of negotiations about the make-up of the next Government. VMRO and VLEN are expected to be joined by the ZNAM party, which will bring the total votes of the new ruling majority over 80, giving it a two-thirds majority and the ability to amend the Constitution and systemic laws.

Even though they’re formally the largest opposition party, SDSM were silent during the session and did not join in the discussion over Gashi’s nomination. DUI, which has the same number of seats in Parliament as SDSM, also did not take part in the discussion, even though VLEN urged them to vote for Gashi, as an ethnic Albanian. DUI representatives, who sat on the opposition side of the Parliament for the first time in 16 years, left the hall shortly after their mandates were verified.

In their absence, the role of opposition was entirely picked up by the populist Levica party. In often personal and ugly attacks, they attacked VMRO-DPMNE of giving too much power to VLEN – even though VLEN will have far fewer and weaker positions in the next Government compared to the relationship DUI had with SDSM in the outgoing Government. Still, the narrative from Levica was that VMRO is selling out the country. Levica leader Dimitar Apasiev reminded VMRO that they were organizing protests that turned violent in 2017, during the appointment of Talat Xhaferi as the first Albanian Speaker of Parliament, and now they are voting in Gashi as the second Albanian Speaker.

VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski, who is expected to be given mandate to form the next Government in the coming days, called out Apasiev even before the Parliament convened. He said that there is no point to discuss Levica and their antics, and accused them of being a “group of junkies”, as they were labeled by a group of former Levica activists who left the party before the elections.