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North Macedonia: Parliament begins debate on new government

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Zoran Zaev, the leader of the social democrats (SDSM), center, talks to the country's President Stevo Pendarovski, right, in parliament on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020
Zoran Zaev, the leader of the social democrats (SDSM), center, talks to the country's President Stevo Pendarovski, right, in parliament on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020   -   Copyright  Boris Grdanoski/AP
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North Macedonia’s parliament started debating on Saturday on a vote of confidence for a new left-wing coalition government after the Social Democrats and their ethnic Albanian partners secured a majority of seats in July's general election.

Social-Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, 46, who led the previous government from 2017 to 2020, has announced a more streamlined cabinet with 19 members, seven fewer than before.

Nine ministers either kept their positions or were moved to new ones. Seven posts went to ethnic Albanians.

Zaev told lawmakers his new Cabinet will focus on reviving the economy, dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and fighting corruption. He announced €1 billion euros in new investments, a 40% increase in the minimum wage and pensions, as well a planned judiciary reform.

The conservative opposition, led by the VMRO-DPMNE party, fiercely criticized the new Cabinet, claiming it is “incapable” of dealing with the pandemic and fulfilling its promises.

“This is a government (composed) of lies … also it is a coalition of continued crime and corruption,” claimed Aleksandar Nikolovski, a senior VMRO-DPMNE official, adding that protests will start this fall in a bid to force the government’s fall.

Parliament must conclude the debate on the confidence vote by midnight Sunday. Approval is expected, since Zaev and his allies won 62 of the 120 seats in parliament.