Tens of thousands of Macedonians joined a rally calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government on Sunday as the country struggles with its deepest political crisis since independence.
Gruevski is grappling with violence near its border with Kosovo and accusations that it’s using wire taps to influence judges, diplomats and police. Zoran Zaev, head of the opposition Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia, called for a transitional government of non-partisan figures to take power and usher in early elections.
“It’s all clear, even Gruevski knows it’s clear,” Zaev said, according to Belgrade-based B92 television. “He’s digging himself deeper into a hole. The sooner he starts the resignation process, the better for everyone in Macedonia.”
While Zaev has released tapes he says are among thousands of wire-taps of prominent people, the government has rejected accusations of wrongdoing. It accused the opposition of stoking unrest after 22 people died in fighting between police and men that authorities identified as Albanian insurgents in Kumanovo, near the border with Kosovo, last week.
It was worst outbreak of violence since 2001, when an ethnic-Albanian insurgency almost tipped into civil war, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the attack by militants a “well-prepared terrorist action.” The former Yugoslav nation of 2 million borders borders European Union states Greece and Bulgaria, as well as Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.
Tens of thousands of Macedonians gathered took part in the protest in the capital Skopje, according to Tanjug news service.
“The most unique thing that will happen is the fact that Albanians and Macedonians will protest together,” Nazim Rashidi, a political analyst at Skopje-based Alsat M TV, said by phone. “Keeping in mind the ethnic conflict more than 10 years ago, the constant tension and the latest incident in Kumanovo, this, for many, would have been unimaginable.”
Supporters of premier Gruevski, who’s been in power for almost a decade, are organizing their own protest Monday.