Republic of Macedonia Protests Turn Violent, 12 Arrested

  • Protesters demand new government to prepare fair elections
  • Demonstrators clash with police, demolish president's office

Protesters in the Republic of Macedonia’s capital Skopje clashed with police on the second day of demonstrations after President Gjorge Ivanov ended a corruption investigation against politicians, issuing a blanket pardon to all involved in a wiretapping scandal.

Several people were injured, including a journalist, and 12 were arrested as protesters smashed the ground-floor windows and furniture in one of Ivanov’s offices late Wednesday, MIA public news service reported. The protesters demanded Ivanov’s resignation, halting the organization of an early election scheduled for June 5 and the appointment of a government of experts that will prepare fair, democratic and credible vote, according to MIA.

The wiretapping scandal broke out a year ago, forcing former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to resign Jan. 15 to allow the forming of an interim cabinet. The country’s parliament dissolved last week, paving the way to the snap vote in an effort to end the worst political crisis in a decade. Gruevski’s government came under pressure in May last year over the leak of alleged wiretaps that purported to show abuses of power by officials including the premier. The former government has denied all allegations.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn voiced concern whether the former Yugoslav nation, a candidate for EU membership since 2005, will be able to hold fair elections after Ivanov issued the blanket pardon. Hahn urged “all political parties and responsible citizens to refrain from acts of violence” and to resolve the political crisis through negotiation, he said on his Twitter account Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department urged Ivanov to reconsider his decision “and to allow the courts to do their jobs,” according to a statement on its website. “We also encourage the government and parties to continue working on reforms that will strengthen democratic institutions and return Macedonia to a path to credible elections and Euro-Atlantic integration.”

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