North Macedonia To Hold July Elections Despite Pandemic

North Macedonia's political parties have agreed on parliamentary elections to be held on July 15, despite a constant number of coronavirus infections.

The elections are seen as a crucial step for the country's European Union membership bid.

The elections in the newest NATO member will also be a test of support for the pro-EU policies of the Social Democrats of former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Zaev resigned in January after the EU failed to announce a date for accession talks. The EU subsequently said in March that membership talks could begin with North Macedonia and Albania.

A transitional government had initially scheduled an early parliamentary poll for April 12 but postponed it due to the outbreak.

Zaev reached the agreement on June 15 with opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski, head of the main opposition party, the nationalist conservative VMRO-DPMNE. In a Facebook post, Mickoski said his party would participate in the elections.

North Macedonia's economy is forecast to contract 3.5 percent this year and is expected to return to growth in 2021.

"We cannot bear a bigger crisis than this with a technical government and without a parliament," Zaev told reporters.

North Macedonia is grappling with a resurgence of infections that occurred after restrictions were recently relaxed. Health Minister Venko Filipce announced 103 new confirmed cases and five deaths on June 15, bringing the total number of infected people to 4,157 and the death toll to 193.