Protesting Macedonians demand government's resignation

2015-05-18 12:52
(AP)

(AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Skopje - Tens of thousands of protesters gathered on Sunday in the centre of the Macedonian capital to demand the resignation of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Zoran Zaev, leader of the opposition Social Democrats and the keynote speaker in the rally, claimed that more than 100 000 attended the incident-free rally.

"More than 100 000 citizens were here today and we got support from different ethnic groups of our country. This could not possibly have been organised by only one party," Zaev told The Associated Press.

He said the rally was "a strong message to our government and to the prime minister to submit their resignations".

The government of the tiny, landlocked Balkan nation of about 2 million people is reeling from a massive, long-running wiretap scandal and a shootout a week ago between police and ethnic Albanian gunmen that left 18 dead in a border town. In a region with a long and bloody history of ethnic conflicts and political instability, the developments have caused consternation both domestically and abroad.

The great majority of the protesters in Skopje departed on Sunday night, but hundreds of opposition supporters have put up tents outside the government building, intending to stay for days.

"Freedom and democracy have no price for us. No price. And we will not stop until we see this dictator resigning," said opposition supporter Mirjana Janov.

Caretaker government

The crowd outside the government building in Skopje chanted "goodbye Gruevski" and "resignations, resignations," and a poster was held aloft showing Gruevski behind prison bars.

"We have come for our future. I am sending a clear message: Gruevski, don't procrastinate. leave!" Zaev told the crowd. Former diplomats, human rights activists and journalists also spoke.

Majority ethnic Macedonians and minority ethnic Albanians mingled together in the crowd.

"I am here to say goodbye to Nikola. I want this government to leave immediately because people have suffered for too long under his regime", said Blagica Nikolova, aged 52, who was in the crowd.

Mirjana Najceska, a human rights activist, said the protest was about freedom: "the same freedom that my father took up arms to fight fascists for when he was 17 and who has come again here today now that he is 90".

Zaev is demanding the formation of a caretaker government that will organise new elections.

In January, Zaev began releasing a cache of wiretapped conversations, and claimed that Gruevski was behind the mass wiretapping of more than 20 000 Macedonians.

The conversations are claimed to reveal corruption at the highest levels of government, including mismanagement of funds, spurious criminal prosecutions of opponents and even attempted cover-ups of killings.

Zaev said those conversations were leaked to him by "patriots" in the domestic intelligence service.

Dialogue

Gruevski, who has won successive elections since 2006, angrily rejects the accusations. He accuses Zaev of participating in a coup plot backed by unnamed foreign spy agencies.

Richard Howitt, a British MEP and former European Parliament rapporteur for Macedonia's EU accession, said in a written statement that he hoped his presence with other international representatives would help promote calm, following last week's events where anti-government protests turned violent and the deadly attack in Kumanovo.

"Current events must not allow a return to inter-ethnic violence in a country which we see as our partner, now and in the future," Howitt said.

The government says it's doing what it can. Three government officials who were among Gruevski's closest aides, the interior and transport ministers, Gordana Jankuloska and Mile Janakieski, and intelligence chief Saso Mijalkov, a relative of Gruevski resigned last week, saying they did so to calm the situation. The three were the voices most heard on the recordings.

Zaev said the resignations aren't enough.

"There is nothing that Nikola Gruevski can do except to leave this [government] building behind us," Zaev said.

He also called for the resignation of Macedonia's chief prosecutor, new leadership for the national TV broadcaster, and the formation of a caretaker government to organize free and fair elections.

Zaev told the AP that he will meet Gruevski on Monday, adding that he hopes that "through dialogue Gruevski will be persuaded to submit his resignation."

Zaev and Gruevski have been invited by the European Parliament for talks to resolve the crisis on Tuesday in Strasbourg.

A pro-government protest has been called for on Monday evening in front of the Macedonian parliament building, less than 1km from the government building. The government hopes it will be at least as massive as Sunday's opposition rally.

Police say they will put many officers on the ground to ensure attendees in the two rallies do not come in contact.

Read more on:    macedonia  |  security

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.