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News 30 Apr 17

US Official Visits Macedonia After Parliament Violence

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee starts a two-day visit to Macedonia on Sunday, with the country still shaken by the attacks on MPs inside parliament.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee [left] in Skopje. Archive photo: MIA

High-ranking US State Department official Hoyt Yee is expected during his visit to press for an end to the political stalemate in Macedonia and to the institutional blockade that has prevented the election of a new opposition-led government since the December elections.

He is also expected to strongly condemn Thursday's violence in the legislature, during which more than 100 people were injured, including journalists and 10 MPs from the new parliamentary majority.

He will meet the newly-elected parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi, who the US administration has already recognized as legitimate even though his election is being disputed by the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, as well as President Gjorge Ivanov, who previously said he had no time for Yee.

Yee, whose visit comes one day earlier than originally planned, is also to meet leaders of the main political parties and NGO representatives, to discuss the formation of a new government, bilateral ties and reforms needed for Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration, the US embassy in Skopje said.

Yee starts his talks on Sunday afternoon, when he is scheduled to meet with the heads of the country’s main ethnic Albanian parties.

On Monday morning, Yee is expected to meet newly-elected speaker Xhaferi.

It is believed that efforts are being made for the meeting to take place inside parliament, which was the scene of violence caused by right-wing VMRO DPMNE supporters on Thursday during Xhaferi's election by the new parliamentary majority.

 

Video Shows VMRO MPs Celebrate During Parliament Rampage

 

In a new vide that has emerged on social networks, provisional culture minister Elizabeta Kanceska is seen greeting and exchanging hugs with protesters, some of them masked, who on Thursday stormed the parliament.

 

The happenings in the video, posted on Facebook by former ruling VMRO DPMNE party MP Ljupco Dimovski, took place in the parliament's plenary hall at about the same time when in the nearby press hall protestors viciously attacked the MP's from the new majority.

 

Other VMRO MP's are seen in the video joining the protesters in a celebratory mood.

 

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday it has filed criminal charges against 15 people, suspected participants in the parliament violence. The ministry said that the police has apprehended at least five of the suspects.

The US embassy in Skopje and then the US State Department almost immediately recognised Xhaferi's election as legitimate, saying they will cooperate with him in the effort to democratize Macedonia.

Yee's meeting with Xhaferi is not a surprise, unlike his confirmed talks with the Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, set for Monday, as Ivanov, who is refusing to give a mandate to form a new government to the new parliamentary majority, previously said he was too busy to meet Yee.

But the president, who previously avoided meeting EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn as well as other EU representatives who have been urging him to reconsider his decision, on Saturday told media that after Thursday's violent events, his schedule had "opened up" and he is now able to talk to Yee.

Former speaker disputes Xhaferi's election

In line with his party, the VMRO DPMNE, the now former parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski this weekend failed to recognize the legitimacy of his successor.

Veljanoski insisted that Xhaferi was elected outside parliamentary procedure and said that therefore he will be the one who will decide when to resume parliament's work – an insistence that further complicates Macedonia's political stalemate.

The election of the new parliament speaker Talat Xhaferi was recognised by Brussels and Washington. Archive photo: morm

VMRO DPMNE leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has dismissed claims that he was behind Thursday's violence and that his aim had been to assassinate his bitter political rival Zoran Zaev, the head of the Social Democrats, who received a head injury during the unrest.

"If those people that were three metres away from him wanted to kill him, they would have," Gruevski told Telma TV on Friday, insisting he never incited violence but merely warned about people's discontent.

Contrary to some people’s hopes, the early elections on December 11 did not put an end to the long-standing Macedonian crisis since then, it has not been possible to form a new government.

President Ivanov and the VMRO DPMNE insist that government led by Zaev’s Social Democrats would jeopardize the country's sovereignty because Zaev has accepted several demands for reform set by the ethnic Albanian parties.

The SDSM insists that the VMRO DPMNE, which has led the government since 2006, is clinging to power mainly because its leaders fear standing trial for corruption.

Several senior party figures, including VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, are facing criminal investigations and indictments from the Special Prosecution, SJO, which they in turn claim are politically motivated.

Watch more: Unedited video footage of Thursday's violence in the Macedonian parliament.

Watch more: unedited video footage of thursday's violence in the parliament - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/macedonia-expects-more-protests-after-thursday-s-violence-04-28-2017#sthash.nj2DcM0Y.dpuf

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