Macedonia faces major political crisis after violence in parliament

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ISTANBUL
Published 28.04.2017 21:38
Policemen try to contain protesters trying to enter Macedonia's parliament in Skopje, on April 27. (AFP Photo)
Policemen try to contain protesters trying to enter Macedonia's parliament in Skopje, on April 27. (AFP Photo)

Macedonia faces the biggest political crisis of its 26-year history after far-right nationals stormed its parliament and injured scores of lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker

Macedonia, a small Balkan country, was hit by a major political crisis and violence after dozens of far-right protesters, mostly supporters of the country's dominant conservative party, invaded parliament and assaulted opposition lawmakers.

Police said 77 people, including opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, the head of a small ethnic Albanian opposition party and 22 police officers were injured in the overnight riot when demonstrators stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

Social democratic leader Zaev got the support of the majority of the coalition with support from the Albanians in parliament, but failed to take on the responsibility of forming the government from the president. Zaev's last push was to nominate ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi of the Democratic Union for Integration Party as parliament speaker. Xhaferi won the election in Thursday's voting amid criticism from Gruevski's National Democratic Party declaring the count to be illegal. Afterwards, Gruevski's supporters, who were outside all day, entered the parliament building.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital of Skopje, Zaev described the attack on him, which left him with blood pouring down his face from a cut in his forehead, as "attempted murder."

Zaev accused former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and President Gjorge Ivanov of provoking the violence, and said they were prepared "to sacrifice the state interest" for their own personal interests.

An interior ministry statement on Friday said 102 people had been treated at city hospitals, including deputies and police officers. Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu earlier told media that 10 deputies and an unspecified number of journalists were among those hurt in the violence. He has offered his resignation a day after protesters stormed the parliament. The resignation of Agim Nuhin, interior minister in the caretaker government, has to be approved by the head of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration party.

Macedonia has been gripped by a deep political crisis for more than two years, and repeated efforts - including international mediation - have failed to improve things. Macedonia has been without a government since elections in December were won by former Prime Minister Gruevski, but without enough votes to hold a majority in parliament. The inconclusive December election saw the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party secure 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament - or two more than the SDSM. Coalition talks with an ethnic Albanian party have failed over the latter's demand that Albanian be named an official second language in the country. There have been frequent demonstrations against demands from Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up one-quarter of the country's population.

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