Tens of Thousands Urge Macedonia's PM Gruevski to Go
Thousands of protestors demanded the resignation of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his cabinet on Sunday.
At a rally organized by the opposition Social Democrats of Zoran Zaev and several public organizations the protestors, waving Macedonian and Albanian flags, gathered in front of the government building in Skopje to seek the resignations not only of Gruevski but also of foreign minister Nikola Poposki.
Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s population of some two million people. Thirty alleged gunmen, including 18 ethnic Albanians from neighbouring Kosovo, have been charged with terror offences following a shootout in Kumanovo last weekend that left eight police officers dead. According to opposition and analysts, however, the timing of the violence seems suspicious, given the huge pressure on Gruevski's government to step down.
AFP estimated the turnout at the rally at about 20,000.
Sunday’s demonstration followed the release by Zaev of wiretapped conversations which appear to show ministers plotting vote-rigging and the cover-up of a murder. Zaev claims that Gruevski was behind the illegal wiretapping of more than 20,000 Macedonians. The West has said the wiretaps have cast serious doubt on the state of democracy in Macedonia which aims to join the EU and NATO.
The government, which claims the opposition is trying to destabilise the country for its own benefit, has scheduled a counter-rally for Monday - a move that has raised fears of a confrontation. The leaders of the four biggest political parties in Macedonia, including Gruevski and Zaev, have agreed to continue their talks on Monday to make another attempt to ease political tensions in the country.
Zaev has said as many as 4,500 protestors plan to remain out in the streets until Gruevski steps down – something the premier is refusing to do.
Zaev has also said he hoped 100,000 people will attend Sunday's protest in Skopje, “but even a tenth of that would send a powerful message, especially as people have been reporting difficulties in travelling from other parts of Macedonia, alleging police interference,” according to Guy De Launey from the BBC.
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