North Macedonia deputy minister in line to become next prime minister after party election

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By AP  with Euronews
Dimitar Kovachevski speaks to the media after being elected as new leader of the Social Democrats.
Dimitar Kovachevski speaks to the media after being elected as new leader of the Social Democrats.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski, File

Dimitar Kovachevski is in line to become the next prime minister of North Macedonia after winning a party election.

The former deputy finance minister was chosen as the new party leader of the ruling Social Democrats on Sunday.

Kovachevski will take over as North Macedonia's leader if a coalition agreement remains intact.

The 47-year-old replaces Zoran Zaev, who stepped down in the wake of a heavy defeat in mayoral and local government elections in late October.

Zaev, who had served as party leader since 2013 and prime minister since 2016, has promised to resign as head of the government in the coming weeks.

He was forced to renegotiate coalition agreements with parties from the country’s ethnic Albanian minority to avoid a snap general election.

President Stevo Pendarovsky will soon announce which party or coalition will be tasked with forming the new government.

“We must restore unity in the party and build policies based on social democratic values,” Kovachevski told supporters after being chosen by party members.

Opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski was re-elected as head of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE, in an election also held Sunday.

The next parliamentary elections in North Macedonia are not scheduled until 2024 but opposition MPs have been pushing for an earlier date.

Under Zaev, North Macedonia secured its membership in NATO after ending a decades-old dispute with Greece over the country’s name.

But the country has been unable to advance ambitions to join the European Union, largely due to a historical language dispute with another EU neighbour, Bulgaria.

The new government will also be tasked with tackling one of the highest rates of death per capita in the world due to COVID-19.