February 21, 2016 / 10:33 PM / 2 years ago

Conditions not met for April 24 elections in Macedonia: EU, U.S.

SKOPJE (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States said on Sunday Macedonia had failed to create conditions for free and fair elections on April 24 as envisaged in an EU-brokered agreement last year.

Macedonia’s political leaders agreed to the elections, two years ahead of schedule, to end months of deadlock over allegations against government of illegal phone-tapping and widespread abuse of office.

Last month opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev said his party would boycott the vote, citing a lack of media reform to reduce government influence and failure to conduct a thorough review of the electoral roll.

The ruling VMRO-DPMNE said in January it planned to go ahead with elections on April 24.

A statement signed by the EU mission to Macedonia and the U.S. embassy expressed concern over “reports of pressure and intimidation of voters”.

“We note that the work of the State Electoral Commission to date and the findings of all relevant experts indicate that at this stage the necessary conditions for organizing credible elections on April 24 are currently not in place,” it said.

“If elections cannot be held at the foreseen date, political parties are expected to work to take the necessary measures to allow holding elections at the earliest possible date.”

On January 24 Macedonia’s parliament dissolved itself after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski tendered his resignation.

After almost a decade in power, Gruevski’s government was bombarded last year by allegations of illegal surveillance, interference in the media and judiciary, election-rigging and favoritism toward party faithful in appointments to public sector jobs.

Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Roche

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