Third night of violent protests against pardons in Macedonian capital

Pro-opposition demonstrators in increasingly volatile Macedonia protested Thursday in Skopje for a third consecutive night at President Gorge Ivanov's blanket pardon of politicians accused of corruption and illegal wiretapping.

Several thousand demonstrators with flags and banners proclaiming "no justice, no peace" confronted a massive police presence surrounding all major government buildings in the capital.

Demonstrators clashed with police, hurling rocks and flares at a cordon guarding the seat of the ruling nationalist VMRO party. Two police were treated for injuries and 14 people detained, the media.mk news portal reported.

Tensions ran high as another large group supporting VMRO and its leader, former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, also massed in the city centre near the seat of the opposition Social Democratic Union SDSM.

On the previous night, demonstrators ransacked Ivanov's offices.

Ivanov shocked the opposition and the international community on Tuesday with a pardon that also ended an investigation into SDSM leader Zoran Zaev's accusation that Gruevski and VMRO eavesdropped on 20,000 people in Macedonia.

EU officials meanwhile condemned the decision, and the United States urged Ivanov to reconsider it, warning that it protected corrupt officials from prosecution.

The prime minister of neighbouring Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, on Thursday also voiced concern over Macedonia's stability over the long term.

Setting up a special prosecutor tasked with investigating the wiretapping and other scandals was a part of a deal the European Union brokered between Gruevski and Zaev last summer in order to defuse a protracted, dangerous political crisis.

Another cornerstone of the agreement were early elections, which were postponed from April 24 to June 5 on objections by SDSM that VMRO has not met the conditions allowing a fair vote.

With voter registries still tainted by dubious entries and media under Gruevski's firm control, the SDSM and other opposition parties promised to boycott the elections in June as well.

The crisis, dragging on since snap polls two years ago - which the SDMS refused to acknowledge, insisting that they were rigged - is the worst in the country since it tottered on a verge of a civil war in 2001, when ethnic Albanians rebelled for more rights.

Last update: Thu, 14/04/2016 - 22:25
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