Chaos swept into the Macedonian parliament on Thursday as demonstrators stormed the building and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker, despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.
Clashes over several hours injured 77 people, including 22 police officers and several lawmakers, authorities said.
Neighboring nations, along with the EU and US, expressed concern at the small Balkan nation’s escalating political crisis.
Dozens of protesters, some of them masked, broke through a police cordon after the opposition Social Democrats and parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority voted to name a new parliament speaker.
Many of the protesters were supporters of former Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski, whose conservative party won elections in December last year, but did not get enough votes to form a government on its own.
He has been struggling to put together a coalition and his supporters have been holding nightly street rallies for two months across the nation to protest the political situation.
Shouting, hurling chairs and grabbing camera tripods abandoned by startled journalists, the protesters attacked lawmakers, including opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who was seen bleeding from the forehead.
TV footage showed a bloodied Zaev and other Social Democrat lawmakers surrounded by protesters waving national flags, shouting “traitors” and refusing to allow them to leave.
A tense standoff lasted several hours and hundreds of protesters swarmed through the parliament building.
Police said 30 lawmakers and a number of journalists who had been trapped inside were eventually evacuated safely.
After being initially overwhelmed, police fired flash grenades and clashed with protesters, expelling them from the building.
Lawmaker Ziadin Sela, who heads a small ethnic Albanian party, was the most seriously injured, police said.
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov went on television to appeal for calm, and “for reasonable and responsible behavior.”
In a brief address to the nation, Ivanov said he had summoned the leaders of the nation’s main political parties for a meeting yesterday.
The US embassy in Macedonia and senior EU officials condemned the violence, while neighboring Greece warned that Macedonia might be “sliding into deep political crisis.”
Zaev, 42, was later cheered by hundreds of supporters when he appeared with several lawmakers from his party outside Social Democratic headquarters in the capital, Skopje.
In a statement, the party accused rival conservatives of inciting the violence, and stirring “hatred and division” among the Macedonian people.
Macedonia has been without a government since the election. Coalition talks broke down over ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian be recognized as an official second language. One-fourth of Macedonia’s population is ethnic Albanian.
Amid the coalition negotiations, the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia, as the Balkan nation’s parliament is known, has been deadlocked for three weeks over electing a new speaker.
Zaev suggested earlier in the day that a speaker could be elected outside normal procedures, an idea immediately rejected by the prime minister’s party as an attempted coup.
Zaev went ahead with the vote and a majority in parliament elected Talat Xhaferi, a former defense minister and member of the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration.
Angry protesters then fought their way into the building.
Despite the return of calm, a small group of demonstrators ignored instructions by police to leave the area early yesterday and they set up tents in a small park near the parliament building.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic