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News 04 May 16

Macedonians Resume ‘Colourful Revolution’ Protests

Anti-government protests in Macedonia - dubbed the ‘Colourful Revolution’ - resumed after an Easter break, while the International Crisis Group warned that the political situation was deteriorating.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Protest in Skopje | Photo by: BETA

After several days’ break for Orthodox Easter and May Day holidays, hundreds of anti-government protestors marched again on Tuesday in the capital Skopje and several other towns, reiterating their demand for President Gjorgje Ivanov to step down.

They are also demanding that he cancel his decision to stop criminal investigations against top politicians, largely from former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party.

Despite bad weather and rain, protesters gathered at the usual starting point, in front of the Special Prosecution Office, SJO, where they expressed support for the newly formed institution tasked with investigating high-level crime.

They then marched to the Skopje Criminal Court where they threw paint balls on it.  Protestors were wearing brightly-coloured T-shirts with the words ‘SJO’ and ‘Colourful Revolution’ on them, and chanting slogans like “Jail for Gruevski”, “No justice, no peace” and “Support the SJO”. 

The protest ended at the usual place, in front of the Government building.

The demonstrators, organised by the civic movement called Protestiram (‘I Protest’) and supported by the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, are also demanding a postponement of the elections set for June 5 - a date that the VMRO DPMNE insists on but which the opposition says it will boycott because election reforms meant to guarantee free and fair polls have not been implemented.

With opposition protests and pro-government counter-protests appear set to continue in the coming days, the EU enlargement commissioner at the weekend once again told the leaders of the four main political parties that they need to sit down and talk.

The message, conveyed the party leaders by the EU’s ambassador to Skopje Aivo Orav, urged all sides to "renew the dialogue" and find a "compromise solution" for the crisis.

EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn also reiterated the EU and US’s call for President Ivanov to withdraw his decision to end the investigations and to allow the Special Prosecution do its job.

The Special Prosecution was formed as part of the EU-brokered political crisis deal reached last summer and was tasked with investigating high-level crime.

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group, ICG think-tank on Monday said the political situation in the country has deteriorated.

"In April the political crisis worsened, prompting widespread domestic and international criticism and days of protests, as opposition Social Democrats on April 6 announced the party would boycott the June 5 early elections due to failure to implement reforms to media and cleaning up of the electoral roll," the ICG said.

The ICG also said that  President Ivanov's decision on April 12 to pardon all politicians facing criminal investigations "had undermined" the work of the Special Prosecution.

The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people, amongst other crimes.

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

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