The Macedonian parliament on May 19 adopted changes to the law that will enable President Gjorge Ivanov to revoke pardons he granted to 56 people, mainly top politicians, including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
The decision taken by Ivanov on April 12 sparked mass protests in the country and also harsh criticism from the EU and US. Elections planned for June 5 have been cancelled amid a boycott by most parties.
However, the amendment states that the president will be able to revoke pardons upon the request of the people pardoned, news agency MIA reported - and it is not clear whether any will voluntarily ask for their pardons to be revoked.
The pardons can be lifted within 30 days of the request, and Ivanov will not be obliged to explain the decision.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee said on May 19 that the president’s decision to issue the pardons should be scrapped entirely.
“If leaders rescind the pardons in only a partial or selective manner, this type of revocation or rescinding will add to what is a growing sense of impunity and a lack of accountability,” Hoyt Yee said in a statement published by the US embassy in Skopje, after he met political leaders of the four main political parties in Macedonia.
"Accountability also requires that parties and leaders of this country extend their full support to institutions responsible for rule of law, including the Special Prosecutor’s Office," Yee said.
According to Yee, it is very important for leaders to act quickly and to repair the damage caused by the decision to the credibility of Macedonia as a country aspiring for EU and Nato membership.
"We now call on Macedonia’s leaders to take the actions in pursuing the reforms under the Przino agreement, in strengthening institutions and building an inclusive, responsible and accountable government," Yee added.
The Prizino agreement was concluded in July 2015 to end the political crisis in the country over a wiretapping scandal, which revealed corruption among government top officials.
Zoran Zaev, header of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), who disclosed the wiretapped conversations, held a news conference on May 19, also saying that the pardons should be scrapped entirely.
The law should apply equally to all, Zaev said.
Zaev added that the May 18 decision to replace SDSM ministers with members of the governing VMRO-DPMNE was made by the VMRO-DPMNE without the consent of the opposition.
“Their main aim is to save criminals from their ranks,” Zaev said.
Lawmakers from the VMRO-DPMNE and its coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), voted on May 18 to replace interim Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski and Labour Minister Frosina Remenski from the SDSM with VMRO-DPMNE deputies Mitko Cavkov and Dime Spasov. All deputy ministers from the SDSM were also replaced.
The SDSM installed its members in the government after Gruevski resigned in January as part of the Przino agreement. This move opened the way to establish the interim government, led by Emil Dimitriev and including opposition ministers and deputy ministers, whose main role was to prepare for the early elections.
The replacement of the SDSM ministers may further deepen the political crisis.
Meanwhile anti-government protests continued in Skopje and 13 cities across Macedonia.
"This crisis cannot be solved with talks, but only on the streets!" NGO Protestiram, which organizes the protests, said on its website on May 19.
The protestors celebrated a small victory on May 18 when plans for the June elections were put on hold. However, protestors said they will not stop their campaign.