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SKOPJE (Macedonia), July 21 (SeeNews) - Macedonia's four main political parties reached late on Wednesday a crucial consent on key issues that had pushed the country into deep political crisis, paving the way for a new date for early elections that should be set in September at the earliest.
The new deal, brokered by the EU and the U.S., addresses the cleaning of the voters list and improving media freedom, the chief reasons why elections were delayed twice - in April and June. The agreement, which includes also a reaffirmed support to the special prosecutor and a strengthened focus on the inclusiveness of the process on reforms and their implementation, comes one year after the first EU/U.S.-brokered Przino deal stalled, deepening Macedonia’s political stalemate.
By August 31, the leaders of the four political parties - ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE, opposition socialist SDSM and ethnic-Albanian DUI and DPA - will assess whether the agreed steps have been completed by which the conditions for holding elections are fulfilled, the agreement document, published on the website of the Delegation of the European Union in Macedonia, shows.
"If elections take place in 2016, a new government following the Przino agreement will be voted in by the parliament 100 days before the agreed day of elections," it reads.
The European Commission welcomed the agreement, with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, calling it good news and an important step towards ending the political crisis.
"Now momentum to be kept: full implementation of reforms is key for sustainable progress," Hahn said in his official Twitter account.
Important step tow. ending the political crisis. Now momentum to be kept: full #implementation of reforms is key f. sustainable progress 2/2— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) 20 July 2016
Under the deal, by July 22 the electoral code will be amended to reflect the agreement on the voter list. 171,500 voters names will be placed in the supplementary part of the list and their right to vote is not disputed. The disputed 39,502 persons will be published by the State Elections Commission (SEC) within three days following the adoption of the amendment of the electoral code.
Regarding the media issue, the law on audio and audiovisual media services should be amended within 15 days, the document said. The country's Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services will establish an ad hoc five-members body to monitor compliance with media provisions of the electoral code. This ad hoc body will function until the end of the electoral process.
The four parties agreed that in case Constitutional Court decides that the special prosecutor legislation or part of it is unconstitutional, they commit to re-establish the office within five days in line with the court's decisions. The parties called on the Constitutional Court to decide on the special prosecutor law as soon as possible.
The political crisis in Macedonia started in January 2015 when SDSM leader Zoran Zaev accused the coalition government of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI of corruption, wiretapping illegally more than 20,000 people and covering-up a murder. It deepened in April, when president Gjorge Ivanov surprisingly halted investigations against 56 officials suspected of being involved in a wire-tapping scandal, triggering continuing mass street protests. In June, Ivanov revoked all controversial pardons after strong pressure from the country's western partners.