Pro-democracy protests spread across Macedonia

Pro-democracy protests spread across Macedonia
By Valentina Dimitriveska in Skopje April 19, 2016

Mass rallies, which started in Skopje on April 12, have now spread to five other towns, amid growing anger over president Gjorge Ivanov’s decision to stop all proceedings against politicians under criminal investigation.

Public anger is growing over Ivanov’s decision, which applies to both government and opposition politicians being probed in connection to wiretapped conversations leaked by the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in 2015. His move seriously undermines the work of the country’s Special Prosecution office set up to investigate allegations related to the taped conversations.

On the sixth day of rallies in Skopje on April 18, the protestors renewed their calls for the withdrawal of the president’s decision, for the snap election scheduled for June 5 to be postponed and for a technocratic government to be installed.

Following a break on Sunday, the protest in the capital started as usual in the front of the Special Prosecution office on April 18, and continued to the parliament. Several thousand people took part in the protest, the largest in the Macedonian capital since the demonstrations started on April 12.

Porta Makedonija, Skopje’s version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was again targeted by protesters who hurled paint and eggs at the monument. The shiny white arch is now spattered with yellow, green and red, and daubed with the word “Mafia” in huge black letters. Whistle blowers were also very active during the protest.

From Porta Makedonija, protesters continued to the ministry of culture to express their revulsion at the spending of millions of euro for the Skopje 2014 project, which has crammed the city’s centre with colossal monuments that were very expensive for the poor country. The ministry of culture building was also pelted with eggs and paint.

The protests in Skopje are bring organized by the NGO Protestiram (I protest).

Protests were also staged in the cities of Strumica, Bitola, Stip, Kumanovo and Veles.

Protestors in Strumica carried flags and banners with the words “Criminals behind bars”, TV footage on Telma showed.

In Macedonia’s second city Bitola, protestors gathered around the home of mayor Vladimir Talevski. He was involved in the latest investigation by the Special Prosecutor, dubbed “Transporter”, which was connected to overpriced student excursions, according to MKD.

“Pay the money back” and “Resignation”, were the slogans shouted in Bitola, SDK news portal reported.

Talks brokered by the EU are due to start on April 22 in Vienna, but many protesters say they have little faith they will lead to a solution after the collapse of the Przino agreement signed in mid 2015 to end an earlier political crisis.

Protestors said they were against the negotiations, as talks have yielded with no results so far. They added that the talks may take place, but the protests will not stop, MKD reported.

The international community and many foreign politicians have expressed concern about the situation in Macedonia.

Carl Bildt, a Swedish politician and diplomat who was involved as a mediator in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, said in a tweet on April 17 that “developments in Macedonia are very worrying and that the country must get back to European track and respect agreements made.”

On April 14, German foreign minister and OSCE chairperson-in-office Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was very concerned about the latest developments in Macedonia.

“The president’s decision to exempt politicians and officials accused of gross misconduct from criminal prosecution is detrimental to the rule of law and legal certainty,” he said in a statement.

According to Steinmeier, the decision contravenes the Przino agreement undermines the work of the special prosecution service and its mandate to investigate all claims that power has been abused.

He said that the priority must be redoubling the efforts to establish the jointly agreed minimum conditions so that credible elections can be held in the near future.



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