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News 27 Apr 17

Violence Erupts as Protesters Storm Macedonia Parliament

At least four MPs were injured when supporters of the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party stormed the legislature after the former opposition elected a parliamentary speaker in a bid to form a government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
 New parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi. Archive photo: MIA

Violence erupted inside Macedonia's parliament on Thursday as protesters supporting the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party stormed the building, angry over the election of new parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi by the former opposition.

People wearing hoods to conceal their faces and other protesters first breached the main entrance and then, after brawling with police, managed to enter the press hall where many MPs from the new majority and journalists remained trapped at the time of publication. Protesters also got into the parliament's main plenary hall, eyewitnesses reported.

The leader of the main party in the new majority - Social Democrats, SDSM president Zoran Zaev – plus three other lawmakers from his party were reported by media crews that were present in the parliament as hurt in the brawl inside parliament.

The EU and US ambassadors in Skopje in a joint statement called for "dialogue", urging the police to establish control over the situation.

The head of the VMRO DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, posted a message on Facebook saying that "violence is not the solution", urging the protesters to calm down.

Screen grab showing SDSM leader Zoran Zaev [centre] being hurt in the parliament.

The incident occurred shortly after afternoon a majority of 67 MPs in the 120-seat parliament elected the new parliament speaker – the next step towards the establishment of the new opposition-led coalition government.

Watch live feed from the Macedonian parliament.

"Dear citizens, my country, I congratulate you on the election of the new parliament speaker and God speed to all of us," SDSM leader Zoran Zaev told a press conference inside parliament immediately before the former ruling VMRO DPMNE activists stormed the building.

The VMRO DPMNE party who has been filibustering the constitutive session for a month, not allowing the election of a new speaker.

Zijadin Sela, the head of DPA Movement for Reforms, was reportedly seriously injured.

It said that it would consider the new speaker’s election as a "coup attempt and the installation of parallel institutions", which it would not allow.

New speaker Xhaferi rejected the VMRO DPMNE claim, saying that because there was a legitimate majority in parliament, “this cannot be a coup”.

On Thursday evening, more VMRO DPMNE supporters tried to enter and occupy the parliament.

The unrest in parliament erupted ahead of a visit by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee to Macedonia on Monday - and amid rumours that the former ruling party couold be preparing to announce martial law in the country to stay in power.

Protesters, some with hoods over their heads, storm the parliament building, attacking MPs from the new majority. Photo : Anadolu Agency

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