With just 62 votes – barely enough to hold a session of the Parliament, let alone advance meaningful legislation – Prime Minister Zoran Zaev faced difficult six months and his job is not about to get easier. His coalition was reduced by seven votes when it came to protecting his Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov.
Smaller coalition partners are openly voicing criticism of Zaev and today opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski announced that the outcome of his courting of Zaev’s partners will be known soon.
Zaev relies on a network of parties that represent smaller ethnic groups, such as the Roma or the Turks, to get to the 46 seats his coalition holds in the Parliament. On top of them are the smaller single-interest parties, some of whom were previously allied with VMRO-DPMNE, only to turn their backs on Nikola Gruevski and join with Zaev in 2015. These could yet prove to be Zaev’s undoing.
These include Liljana Popovska’s environmentalist DOM party which holds two seats in the Parliament. Popovska is not in the Parliament herself, due to the open hostility of Zaev’s base because of her long years in coalition with VMRO. As the adopted daughter of notable Macedonian historian Blaze Ristovski, Popovska is vocal in opposition against Zaev when he makes concessions to Bulgaria. She loudly denounced his shocking BGNES interview, and more recently condemned Zaev for allowing the broadcasting of Bulgarian TV stations in Macedonia.
Another critic from inside the coalition is old police hand Pavle Trajanov, who is a member of Parliament and was also allied with VMRO before joining in with Zaev. He also criticizes Zaev’s BGNES interview, but also attacks him on Zaev’s huge gaping hole that is the issue of corruption.
Some of the ethnic coalition partners are also shaky. The PDT Turkish party, which holds one seat in the coalition, abandoned Zaev’s SDSM in a municipal council in Radovis citing poor results from their partnership.
Zaev insists that he will not allow early elections to take place, despite the clearly difficult time he is having convening the Parliament and passing any laws through. But continued corruption scandals and blockade in the EU accession talks could force his hand – and if not – his coalition partners might.