US reiterates call for Macedonian president to rescind decision to pardon politicians

By bne IntelliNews April 25, 2016

The US again urged Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov to withdraw his decision to pardon politicians under criminal investigations and to let special prosecutors to do their job, the press office of the Department of State said on April 22.

The reiterated call comes as Macedonia plunges into deeper crisis with daily protests against Ivanov’s April 12 decision. On April 22, ethnic Albanians also staged an anti-government rally in Skopje, showing the widening involvement in what has become known as the "colourful revolution".

“We strongly urge President Ivanov to rescind his decision and let the special prosecutor’s office and the courts do their job,” Elizabeth Trudeau, director at the US Department of State’s press office said on April 22 in a daily news briefing, asked about the situation in Macedonia.

“We and the EU have made our concerns known about the importance of credible elections in Macedonia. Time is short. Much remains to be done.” Trudeau added.

Previously, on April 13, the US Department of State strongly urged the president to reconsider his move, and to let the special prosecutor's office investigate serious allegations of government wrongdoing.

Macedonia's parliament has called an early election for June 5, but according to the international community and the SDSM opposition party, the conditions for a free and democratic vote, which include media reforms and clearing of the electoral roll, have not been met.

EU officials are also considering the possibility of freezing Macedonia’s bid to launch EU membership talks, in an attempt to increase pressure on the country’s government to end the ongoing crisis. Brussels may also impose sanctions on leading politicians, unnnamed sources from Brussels told DW Radio on April 21.

This was subtly announced in a joint statement from EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl on April 21, when they said that the Vienna meeting on overcoming the crisis in Macedonia scheduled for April 22 had been cancelled.

The possible sanctions could be similar to the those taken in 2014 when the EU froze the assets of the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, former prime minister Mykola Azarov and 16 other senior Ukrainian officials suspected of misusing state funds and violating human rights, which were extended in March 2016, media said.

Meanwhile in Skopje, several thousand ethnic Albanians, led by the organization Movement for Reforms of Zijadin Sela from the opposition DPA, took to the streets to protest against the current political regime and call for democracy to be restored, Nova TV reported.

They chanted slogans against the leader of the governing VMRO-DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, and its ethnic Albanian partner DUI’s head Ali Ahmeti. “Ali, the traitor”, the protestors chanted.

The two-hour peaceful protest started in the Cair district, populated mainly by ethnic Albanians, and ended in front of the assembly.

They also used the rally to ask for more rights for ethnic Albanians, who represent almost 25% of the population in Macedonia according to some estimates, even though Macedonia has not conducted a census since 2002.

Later on April 22, the regular anti-government protests of the so-called colourful revolution continued for the second week in Skopje and several other cities.

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