SKOPJE, Macedonia – Macedonia's feuding party leaders agreed late Wednesday to hold early national elections on Dec. 11 to end a festering political crisis that has seen two previously agreed election dates cancelled this year.
In a U.S. and EU mediated meeting in Skopje that lasted nearly seven hours, the heads of the governing conservatives, the main opposition Social Democrats and two ethnic Albanian parties also agreed on forming a cross-party body to monitor the electoral campaign.
The head of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party Nikola Gruevski said he has decided to agree to any demand of the opposition "just not to give them the alibi to postpone the elections once more."
Oppositional leader Zoran Zaev warned Gruevski "not to dare" breach the agreement.
Macedonia has been in political turmoil since February 2015, following a massive wiretapping scandal in which the conversations of more than 20,000 people were monitored. The country's two main parties traded blame for the wiretaps.
Holding early elections half-way through the conservatives' four-year mandate was part of an internationally-brokered deal aimed to defuse the crisis.
According to the previous deal, lawmakers need to approve a caretaker government 100 days before the Dec. 11 elections. The opposition will head the ministries of interior and labor, and will nominate deputy ministers in finance and agriculture.
The opposition, according to the deal, will also nominate an editor in chief of the national TV broadcaster's news program.
Elections were first set for April 24, postponed to June 5, and again put off indefinitely.