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North Macedonia elects first ever ethnic Albanian PM

By AFP

January 28, 2024 06:33 PM


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North Macedonia's parliament elected Talat Xhaferi as caretaker prime minister on Sunday, making the 61-year-old the first ethnic Albanian to lead the Balkan country's government.

Xhaferi, whose cabinet will include ministers nominated by the opposition, was elected with 65 votes in favour out of the 120 seats in parliament while the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE deputies did not vote.

"I will advocate for ethnic balance and harmony between the communities," Xhaferi told the MPs during the session, speaking in both Macedonian and Albanian.

Around a quarter of North Macedonia's 1.8 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanians. But ever since the country's 1991 declaration of independence from former Yugoslavia, tensions persisted between the majority population and ethnic Albanian minority.

The tensions even erupted into a six-month armed conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces in 2001, which only ended through the intervention of the international community.

A peace deal granted greater rights to the ethnic Albanian minority which had complained of discrimination and limited opportunities and representation, and the two communities have lived in relative peace with no major incidents in recent years.

Representatives of the ethnic Albanian community have been elected or appointed on high state positions before but have never led the government.

Xhaferi, who comes from the biggest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) that is a coalition partner in the government for over 20 years, was a minister of defence in the past.

He also served as speaker of the parliament for over six years.

Xhaferi will lead the government for 100 days until the general elections scheduled for May 8.

The concept of caretaker governments was introduced in North Macedonia's law back in 2015, with goal to end the political havoc in the Balkan country and to organise free and fair elections.

"It is not important if it is caretaker government with deadline of one or 100 days for work, I will work completely professionally and will not allow any kind of manipulations concerning the democratic processes," said Xhaferi.


AFP


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