EU, U.S. Condemn Storming of Parliament in Rep. of Macedonia

  • Opposition leaders reject president’s call for crisis meeting
  • European Commission, U.S. support opposition, call for dialog

Protestors storm the parliament building in Skopje, Macedonia on April 27.

Photographer: Boris Grdanoski/AP Photo

The Republic of Macedonia’s political crisis deepened as the U.S. and the European Union condemned the overnight storming of parliament by protesters and opposition leaders rejected the president’s call for an emergency meeting.

Scores of demonstrators forced their way into the legislature after the opposition Social Democrats and parties representing ethnic Albanians elected a parliament speaker in a vote that former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s party refused to recognize. The leader of the Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, was injured, along with Ziadin Sela, a member of the Alliance of Albanians.

The EU and the U.S. welcomed the parties’ election of Talat Xhaferi as speaker of parliament.

“We will work with him to support democracy and to advance the interests of Macedonia,” the U.S. Embassy in Skopje said on its website. The violence in parliament “is not consistent with democracy and is not an acceptable way to resolve differences. It is critical all parties respect democratic processes and the law, and refrain from violent actions which exacerbate the situation.”

The former Yugoslav state has struggled to find a way out of its political deadlock after Gruevski failed to form a coalition government following an inconclusive snap vote. Gruevski’s ally, President Gjorge Ivanov, has refused to give a mandate to Zaev, who says he can form a majority-backed government with the parties representing the ethnic-Albanians, who account for 25 percent of a population of 2 million, according to the CIA Factbook.

President, Clashes

At least 100 people were hurt, including three lawmakers and 22 policemen who were helping evacuate the members of parliament overnight, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday. A TV broadcast from Skopje showed police using stun grenades in clashes with protesters. Interior Minister Agim Nuhin stepped down.

Ivanov invited the country’s political leaders to meet on Friday to discuss ways out of the crisis. Zaev and Ali Ahmeti, leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, the biggest ethnic Albanian party, rejected the call.

“President Ivanov is part of the crisis and can’t offer a solution,” Zaev said at a briefing via video link from Skopje, adding he expects “the office of the speaker to be handed over,” then, after several days “I hope the president will give me the mandate to form a government.” 

European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn reiterated his appeal to Ivanov to give Zaev and his potential coalition partners a mandate to form a cabinet. The former Yugoslav republic is a candidate for EU membership.

“We condemn in the strongest terms today’s ongoing attacks on the members of the parliament in Skopje,” the European Commission said in a statement. “The Interior Ministry and the police must ensure the security of the Parliament and its members.”

The yield on the country’s euro-denominated bonds maturing in July 2021 rose 7 basis points to 3.305 percent at 4:19 p.m. in Skopje, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gruevski, whose party ally Emil Dimitriev is acting as interim prime minister until a new government is formed, appealed to politicians and citizens “to refrain from actions that may cause inter-ethnic tension.”

“I never justified violence,” Gruevski said on his party’s website, adding that those responsible for the clashes should be brought to justice. His VMRO-DPMNE party will announce their next steps in the coming days, he said.

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