News 23 Jan 13

Macedonian Opposition Resumes Street Protests

Opposition Social Democrats said they will resume roadblocks after a meeting of political leaders on Tuesday failed to defuse the political crisis in the country.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

At a meeting on Tuesday, Macedonia's feuding leaders failed to agree

Macedonia's opposition Social Democrats said they will resume blocking roads in the capital and elsewhere as a sign of resistance to the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which they call an undemocratic regime.

“We are aware that simultaneous blockades of three intersections in Skopje may irritate commuters, but I appeal for patience because, at this moment, street democracy is the only way to resist the regime,” the Social Democrats vice-president, Ana Pavlovska-Daneva, said on Tuesday.

An one-hour-long meeting on Tuesday between Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the Social Democrat head, Branko Crvenkovski, failed to bring the two feuding leaders closer to a resolution.

“We did not get to discussions at all because… from the start… we faced an ultimatum [from Crvenkovski], to accept early general elections, or they would refuse talks on all [other] issues,” Gruevski said after the meeting.

Crvenkovski said that the Social Democrats will end their boycott of parliament only if the government accepts their main term, snap general elections in March to be held alongside the regular local elections.

“Only then will the Social Democrats return to parliament”, Crvenkovski assured reporters.

Both leaders left little space for a new face-to-face meeting in the near future.

Roadblocks continue, opposition says

The direct talks between the leaders were the first since a political crisis in Macedonia erupted on December 24, when government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs were kicked out of parliament.

The day saw a tense stand-off in Skopje between several thousand pro- and anti-government protesters, separated by a police cordon.

Opposition MPs have since quit parliament and called on supporters to stage acts of civil disobedience against the government.

After New Year, the opposition said it would only take part in the March local elections if the ministers in charge of police, justice and finance were changed and parallel general elections were also held.

While media reports mention a possible plan to overcome the stalemate being pushed by EU and US representatives, nothing has been officially confirmed.

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