Parallel Protests Take Place Across Macedonia
Tensions in Macedonia continued to run high on Tuesday, as thousands of pro-opposition protesters gathered in Skopje and other parts of the country, while parallel protests took place in several towns.
Protests were sparked by last week's decision of Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov to pardon 56 political figures for their alleged involvement in last year's wiretapping scandal.
Among those granted blanket amnesty are both government and opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Socialist opposition leader Zoran Zaev.
On Tuesday, the pro-opposition protest in the Macedonian capital began at the office of the special prosecutor, proceeded to the parliament and was stopped by police before reaching the mission of the EU.
This has been the fifth day of protests led by the largest opposition SDSM party and its affiliated NGOs.
Protests in some of the previous days have turned violent, with participants clashing with police and attacking buildings.
Protesters are demanding the resignation of Ivanov and are calling for postponing the early parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on June 5.
Pro-opposition protests also took place in Kumanovo, Veles, Prilep and Kocani, the Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) informs.
Meanwhile, the GDOM organisation, which is close to the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, held its own rallies in Veles, Bitola and Kocani.
GDOM is also against the presidential pardons as Zaev and other SDSM affiliates are among those pardoned. VMRO-DPMNE is preparing a major rally in the Macedonian capital on Thursday.
A meeting between the leaders of the four largest parties, which will be mediated by EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, MEPs Ivo Vajgl, Richard Howitt and Eduard Kukan, is scheduled to take place in Vienna on Friday.
The aim of the meeting is to discuss ways to solve the political crisis and ensure the leaders will continue to implement the Przino agreement reached between the four largest parties in June/July last year.
In compliance with the agreement, Gruevski resigned at the beginning of 2016, a caretaker government was appointed to oversee the holding of the early parliamentary elections and parliament was dissolved earlier in April.