Macedonian opposition to seek impeachment of president Ivanov

Macedonian opposition to seek impeachment of president Ivanov
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje April 13, 2016

Macedonia’s main opposition party the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has urged the parliament to launch impeachment proceedings against president Gjorge Ivanov following his decision to halt investigations against politicians, the party said on April 13.

Ivanov made an unexpected decision on April 12 to halt all proceedings against politicians who are under criminal investigation in a move that seriously undermines the work of the country’s Special Prosecution office amid a deepening political crisis in Macedonia. His decision applies to politicians from both the government and the opposition.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said in a statement that Ivanov had “become the protector of criminals, he dishonoured the constitution, the laws and the dignity of citizens, which is equal to a coup d’etat.”

The SDSM has urged the parliament to call an emergency session on the impeachment issue, the statement said.

Meanwhile, protests in Skopje entered a second day as thousands of citizens took to the streets on April 13. According to broadcaster Nova TV, several thousand people gathered in front of the national office of the president, seeking his resignation.

Supporters of the senior ruling VMRO-DPMNE party are staging a contra-protest in front of the SDSM offices in Skopje, suggesting that tensions are increasing.

Zaev has called for more street protests and urged civil associations, other political parties and citizens to join the SDSM. Zaev added that the opposition would use all legal means in accordance with the constitution to restore democracy in Macedonia.

Recently, the SDSM has established a wide civic front, which was joined by several smaller political parties, against the political regime established by VMRO-DPMNE leader and ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski.

Ivanov, a candidate for the VMRO-DPMNE, is serving his second five-year mandate after he was re-elected in April 2014.

On April 12, he said that the aim of his move to halt proceedings against politicians was to put an end to the political crisis in the country.

However, he has been criticised by international actors including the European Union, which on April 12 called on all sides in Macedonia to avoid interventions that risk undermining years of efforts within the country and to strengthen the rule of law with the support of the international community.

"Macedonia has committed itself to promoting the rule of law and fighting impunity. Against this background, president Ivanov’s decision on the pardoning of a number of officials raises serious concerns, which comes at a time when all parties should be seeking ways to preserve the Przino Agreement," said the EU statement.

The EU added that it is important to support the work of special prosecutor Katica Janeva and her team, which was set up by parliament as part of the Przino Agreement to continue to investigate serious issues brought forward in 2015.

According to the EU, it is equally important for Macedonia to prepare for credible elections and to keep the country on its Euro-Atlantic path. "It is therefore essential that all parties return to dialogue and find a common agreement that serves the citizens," the EU said.

The US is also deeply concerned by Ivanov's announcement, the US Department of State said on April 13.

“We also encourage the government and parties to continue working on reforms that will strengthen democratic institutions and return Macedonia to a path to credible elections and Euro-Atlantic integration,” it was noted in the statement.

As part of the EU-brokered Przino agreement, signed in July 2015 for overcoming the crisis in the country, Macedonia is due to hold snap general elections on June 5. The Macedonian parliament was dismissed on April 6, but it is still uncertain whether the election will take place as the SDSM has said it will not participate as conditions for a free election have not been met.