Macedonian social democrat leader expects mandate to form government

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Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov refused on Wednesday to grant a coalition of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties a mandate to form a government, leaving the former Yugoslav republic no closer to ending a two-year-old political crisis.

Ivanov insisted that the ethnic Albanian platform, which was the main precondition for ethnic Albanian parties to support any government coalition after the December 11 general election, breached the constitution and the 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord which granted greater rights to the country's ethnic Albanians.

"As long as I am president, I will not give the mandate [to form the cabinet] to a party working against sovereignty", Ivanov said in a televised address, accusing Zaev of intent to violate the country's constitution.

Macedonia's people "did not vote for the Albanian language to be the second official language, for changing the banknotes (to include Albanian language inscriptions), for turning Macedonia into a binational state", the party said in a news release.

Ivanov adds that at a meeting with Zaev he proposed him to carry out consultations with the Albanian parties.

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The VMRO-DPMNE, which won two more seats than the opposition, has already tried but failed to form an alliance. While Nikola Gruevski, who was first mandated to seek to form a government, was not required to provide any signatures, Zaev was required to secure at least 61 signatures.

An official from the Albanian Democratic Union of Integration (DUI), which had hoped to join the coalition, said the situation was "chaos". It reached the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, before European Union and other diplomacy defused the situation. With 10 seats in the parliament the DUI is the single largest ethnic Albanian party.

Following December's vote, leaders of ethnic Albanian parties traveled to Tirana in Albania and agreed to a joint platform for negotiating with a coalition including demanding wider use of Albanian language.

Thousands of Macedonians have been protesting against the bill.