News 30 Dec 12

Macedonia Opposition to Continue Protests

Thousands of opposition supporters gathered in Skopje on Saturday to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, and vowed to continue their protests next week. 

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Opposition leader, Branko Crvenkovski | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Several thousand people gathered at a peaceful opposition rally on Saturday in front of the trademark yellow building of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party led by Gruevski.

“This is the beginning of the end of the regime of Nikola Gruevski,” Branko Crvenkovski said in an address to the protesters. Crvenkovski is the head of Macedonia's largest opposition party, the Social Democrats.

The opposition said they would continue their street protest on January 3 by organising open parliament stages in towns across the country.

The political crisis in the country has escalated since December 24, when lawmakers from the ruling coalition passed a budget for 2013 just minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were kicked out of the parliament.

“We have no government, no prime minister… In Macedonia there is only one party that rules through dictatorship, that passes a contraband budget, that exerts force against those who think differently, that gives jobs only if you have a party membership card, that controls the media and dares to use force against journalists,” Crvenkovski said.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Along with the drama in the parliament, on Monday Macedonia also saw a tense stand-off between several thousand people separated by a police cordon in front of the building.

While opposition supporters protested against the government's plan to borrow money as part of the 2013 budget, pro-government supporters staged a counter- protest. Media reported that at least 18 people were injured in the protests. They included three opposition MPs.

The opposition has since launched a boycott of parliament and called on supporters to stage acts of civil disobedience against the government of Gruevski and his centre-right VMRO DPMNE party.

Throughout the week, the opposition set up roadblocks at main junctions in the capital and in other towns. Only minor incidents were reported at the roadblocks.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The exception was Thursday’s rally in the town of Prilep, where a man drove his vehicle into a crowd of opposition supporters, injuring several of them. The police said the suspect was arrested.

Meanwhile, the ruling parties in parliament on Friday fast-tracked the approval of controversial loans of some 40 million euros from the World Bank and 250 million euros from Deutsche Bank.

While the government insists it will use the money on reforms, the opposition has accused the ruling party of ineffective spending in times of crisis and claims the money will be used to support the Gruevski government ahead of local elections in March.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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