By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian President Gjordje Ivanov is standing his ground on the controversial pardons, having told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday that he stands behind his April 12 decision and would make exactly the same decision again.
Observers say that waiting for him to voluntarily withdraw the pardons appears to be a waste of time that would only further complicate Macedonia’s political crisis.
Ivanov also reiterated the ruling VMRO DPMNE party’s line that the Special Prosecution office was to blame for the current crisis for selectively targeting the ruling party in its probes.
“This atmosphere of conflict is the work of the Special Prosecution [which] investigates [corruption] in a selective manner, only against the ruling party,” Ivanov said in the interview.
Under pressure to void the pardons, parliament last week declined to scrap the pardons itself but gave the President powers to scrap pardons for those who do not want them, and others, based on his personal assessment.
However, only 12 out of the pardoned 56 politicians and officials have requested this favour so far.
Political analyst Albert Musliu says the fact that the President has said he would issue the pardons again “indicates that we cannot expect him to withdraw the pardons voluntarily”.
Waiting for him for act now would be a “waste of time while the tensions in the country worsen”, he added.
Musliu says parliament must now take take firmer steps on its own and “scrap the pardons” in their entirety.
A political science professor at Skopje’s FON University, Mitko Gadzovski, told Radio Free Europe on Tuesday that the President’s stand “does not lead towards a resolution of the situation we are in” and “would even worsen the situation”.
On April 12, Ivanov pardoned 56 top politicians and their associates, effectively blocking the work of the Special Prosecution, set up to probe high-level corruption.
The move sparked mass protests in the capital and across the country and drew calls from the EU and US for him to withdraw what they said was a harmful move.
If Macedonian leaders “revoke the pardons, in only a partial or selective manner, this type of revocation or rescinding will add to what is a growing sense of impunity in this country and lack of accountability,” the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Yee said last Thursday during a visit to Macedonia.
Former Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski was pardoned of five criminal proceedings.
His former Transport Minister, Mile Janakieski, and Interior Minister, Gordana Jankulovska, topped the list in terms of reprieves, with 16 and 11 pardons respectively.
Ivanov also pardoned the opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev of two criminal proceedings which the regular Prosecutor’s office charged him with last year.
The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people, amongst other crimes.
Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under the terms of an EU-brokered accord reached last summer, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilise the country.