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News 17 Jun 16

Macedonia Braces as Protesters' Deadline Looms

Anti-government protesters in Macedonia say that if the authorities have not met their key demands by Saturday, they can expect more trouble.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Nebojsha Gelevski

Two days before the deadline expires for a fresh wave of protests, supporters of Macedonia's “Colourful Revolution” blocked three key bridges in Skopje and painted a giant number two on the city's Goce Delcev bridge as a reminder.

The actions took place as protesters found out that one of their key demands, which is for the Constitutional Court to guarantee that it will not rule the Special Prosecution - tasked to investigate high-level crime - unconstitutional, is unlikely to be met in the coming days.

The court's web page significantly did not include this motion on the agenda for next week’s sessions.

“We will be fair and wait for the last day [Saturday] because the Constitutional Court still has a chance to take the side of justice and protect the Special Prosecution. If not, we will act accordingly and take justice into our hands,” one protest participant said.

Not revealing further plans, protesters said that if their demands are not met on Saturday, they will radicalize their actions.

On Wednesday, several thousand protesters marched through Skopje, once more pelting the government building with paint balls and covering the entire surface of the boulevard in front of it with colour.

Protesters are also demanding that criminal charges and fines against some of the protest participants be halted.
“If this government continues to lead Macedonia, the country will turn into a prison,” said Zdravko Saveski, a leader of the leftist Levica party, who spent some 50 days in house detention for alleged participation in the demolition of the President’s contact office in Skopje in mid-May at the start of the protests.

Protesters also repeated their call for the resignation of President Gjorge Ivanov whom they call responsible for worsening the political crisis and for pardoning politicians implicated in serious crimes.

In May, Ivanov issued a pardon from criminal proceedings for 56 politicians and their associates. Facing daily protests as well as condemnation from the EU and US, he withdrew the pardons on June 6.

Other demands include a new court specifically to investigate high-level crime and an interim government to be formed to organise free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, the EU and US-brokered crisis talks that started this week continue. Although the leaders of the four main parties have not yet sat down at the same table, senior party representatives have gathered over the past three days at the EU residence in Skopje.

Unofficially, the government and the opposition parties are close to reaching a deal on one of the most heated topics, which is cleaning up the electoral roll.

Sources close to the talks were cited as saying that they are mulling the deletion of some 45,000 voters from the list that previous checkups showed were fictive, in addition to removing some 150,000 who were found to be living outside Macedonia.

Apart from clearing the electoral roll of fictive voters, other key topics in the negotiations include media reforms to ensure balanced reporting, steps to separate party political from state activities and prevent political pressure on public administration employees, as well as the modalities for the formation of the new interim government that will carry out reforms and organize free elections.

While the political parties remain silent, media reports speculate that names of figures who will fill the new cabinet are being discussed between the government and the opposition.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around claims that the government formerly led by VMRO DMPNE leader Nikola Gruevski illegally wiretapped over 20,000 people, among other crimes.

Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under the terms of the EU-brokered accord, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.

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