SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The leader of Macedonia's Social Democrats said on Thursday he expected to be able to form a new government in March, ending a two-year political crisis following a wiretapping scandal that brought down a previous prime minister.
After inconclusive parliamentary elections in December, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party at the centre of the scandal tried but failed to reach an agreement with others to form a coalition cabinet.
Social Democrat head Zoran Zaev said he had now secured the support of ethnic Albanian parties and expected to complete talks on forming a government in early March.
"Now we have to agree on the distribution of ministries and the future government reform platform," Zaev told reporters while on a trip to Sarajevo.
"I am very optimistic that in the first half of March Macedonia will have a government led by Social Democrats," he said.
The Balkan nation's two-year political crisis was triggered by a surveillance scandal that forced veteran VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski to resign a year ago.
The crisis was the worst since Western diplomacy helped drag the country of 2.1 million people back from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, promising it a path to membership of the European Union and NATO.
In the December poll, VMRO-DPMNE took 51 seats to the Social Democrats' 49, neither winning enough of the 120 seats to form a government.
The country's ethnic Albanian parties have made their support conditional on the passage of a law backing broader use of their language in the country.
On Wednesday evening the Democratic Union of Integration, the biggest ethnic Albanian party in parliament, said it had agreed with the Social Democrats on such a law. It did not elaborate.
Albanian is currently an official language only in municipalities where Albanians account for more than 20 percent of the population.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Additional reporting by Kole Casule in SKOPJE; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Hugh Lawson)