Protests in Macedonia against Ivanov, June 5 elections, continue

Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Skopje and other major cities in the Republic of Macedonia on May 3, continuing to demand the resignation of the country’s president Gjorge Ivanov and the postponement of the early parliamentary elections currently scheduled for June 5.

The current round of protests began on April 12 after Ivanov announced an amnesty for 56 politicians, including former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, regarding their alleged involvement in a large-scale illegal eavesdropping scandal.

The protesters also want the postponement of the June 5 elections, already once postponed, because they do not believe that the vote will be free and fair because of the influence of Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party.

The protests resumed after a brief break this past weekend as Macedonia marked Orthodox Easter and May 1, Labour Day.

The protests were organised by supporters of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. The party has said that it will not participate in the June 5 elections.

Similar demonstrations also took place in Prilep and Bitola.

The presence of police and special forces in capital Skopje and other large cities has been stepped up.

An earlier attempt by the EU to broker a solution to the current crisis failed. According to a report by the Independent Balkan News Agency, diplomatic pressure is mounting on Ivanov to withdraw the amnesty that led to the protests.

The June 5 elections are a consequence of an EU-brokered solution to the 2015 political crisis in Macedonia that followed the eavesdropping scandal, in which an estimated 20 000 citizens and diplomats were allegedly subjected to illegal surveillance, and a boycott of parliament by the socialist opposition, who said that Gruevski had manipulated the previous elections.

As part of this deal, Gruevski vacated the office of prime minister earlier in 2016 to open the way for early elections. However, concerns about the viability of the June 5 elections are shared by Western diplomats in Skopje.




The Sofia Globe staff

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