Albanians Threaten to Quit Macedonian Coalition

DUI official says party will walk if law on armed forces leaves out members of former Albanian guerilla fighters from 2001 conflict.Macedonia’s ruling coalition has been shaken after the government’s smaller coalition partner announced that it may leave, if a key piece of legislation is adopted.A prominent member of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, briefed that they will cease participation in the government if parliament adopts a draft law granting more rights and privileges to members of the Macedonian armed forces who fought in the conflict in 2001.

The DUI wants the same rights granted to men who fought on the side of the Albanian guerilla force in 2001.

“If the rights of ex-members of National Liberation Army and their families are not taken into consideration with the new law, and that law passes in parliament, the DUI will leave the government,” the official predicted.

The DUI emerged in 2002 from the ranks of the National Liberation Army, which fought the Macedonian armed forces during the six-month conflict in 2001. The conflict ended in the 2001 Ohrid peace deal, which enlarged the rights of the Albanian community.

According to the DUI, the new law should be called the “Law for the victims of the 2001 conflict”, and its terms should apply to ex-fighters on both the Macedonian military and the NLA.

If the DUI leaves the government it is most likely that early general elections will have to be organized. The same DUI official said the party would then lobby for early elections to be held together with the local elections scheduled for March 2013. Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party has led the Macedonian government for the last six years, in coalition with DUI for the last four years.

By tradition, Macedonian governments include one major political party representing the Albanian community, which makes up about 25 per cent of the population of 2.1 million.
VMRO-DPMNE issued a short statement on Tuesday, blaming DUI leaders of undermining the coalition by unilaterally paying homage to NLA fighters.

“Acts such as laying flowers on a monument to NLA fighters has never been part of the coalition agreement,” the party said.

Last week the Defence Minister, Fatmir Besimi, from the DUI, caused controversy when together with Macedonian army officers he paid respect to NLA fighters. VMRO-DPMNE leaders and Macedonian President Gjorgje Ivanov rebuked the minister and distanced themselves from the action.

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