Skopje, Macedonia.The newly elected speaker of the Macedonian parliament, Talat Xhaferi, is now installed in his new office after being temporarily prevented from taking up the position by political opponents seeking to plunge Macedonia into chaos.
About 2,000 protesters have gathered in Macedonia’s capital to demand new elections they hope will break the country’s political deadlock.The peaceful protest was held outside the European Union mission in Skopje a day after violent protests inside the country’s parliament.
The organizers of todays rally insist they have no political affiliation, and say their activism is aimed at preventing the country from sliding deeper into crisis.
Appointing a new speaker is an essential step before a new government can be voted in. VMRO-DPMNE, which has ruled Macedonia since 2006, tried to block Xhaferi from taking up the post since this will pave the way for the election of a new government led by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and backed by parties representing the ethnic Albanian minority.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that authorities have a “solemn responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and ensure the security of Parliament and its members at all times.” The NATO alliance has warned Macedonia, a candidate country, not to let similar violence happen again after protesters stormed parliament and assaulted opposition lawmakers.
Xhaferi, a MP from the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) was elected on April 27 in an unconventional procedure in the middle of the parliament hall, as the speaker’s chair was occupied by MPs from VMRO-DPMNE, who tried to prevent his election. This sparked violent incidents in the parliament which left over 100 people injured, including SDSM leader Zoran Zaev.
When Xhaferi initially tried to take up the new post, several VMRO-DPMNE MPs prevented him from entering the speaker’s office, saying his election was not valid. Outgoing speaker Trajko Veljanovski, who was supposed to officially transfer the position, was not present.
Xhaferi has already met the EU ambassador for Macedonia Samuel Zbogar, who announced the meeting on Twitter – a move that puts VMRO-DPMNE under pressure to accept his appointment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is blaming the European Union and the United States for the turmoil in Macedonia.
In a statement from Moscow, the ministry said the West’s “gross interference” in the internal affairs of Macedonia was the main reason for the political crisis and described it as the “unceremonious manipulation of the will of the citizens with the aim of removing the legitimate government from power.”