Macedonia Braces For More Violence After Parliament Riot

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

After Thursday’s rampage in parliament left more than 100 people injured, police have boosted security around the building, anticipating more protests by VMRO DPMNE supporters, set for Friday.

After Macedonia’s parliament canceled Friday’s session due to damage caused by rioters, heavily equipped riot police were deployed in front of the building in anticipation of more protests on Friday afternoon.

On Friday, the Interior Ministry said 102 people had been treated in hospital, including 10 MPs, journalists and police officers. The head of the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, Zoran Zaev, was among the injured, with blood pouring down his face.

Media reported that Zijadin Sela, the MP who appeared to be among those worst injured during the storming of the parliament, was out of danger.

Sela, leader of the opposition ethnic Albanian DPA – Movement for Reforms, sustained head concussion and fractures and is still recuperating in hospital.

Police accused of failing to do their job:

Provisional Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu on Friday accused the police of failing to do their job and prevent the violence in parliament.

He offered his resignation, as he said out of moral reasons, for not succeeding in four months in office in eliminating political influence in the police.

Nuhiu, who comes from the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, a party that is part of the new parliamentary majority, said he suspected that some parts of the police had deliberately stayed passive for a long time in order to let the violent crowd enter the parliament.

He named Mitko Cavkov, head of the Public Safety Bureau, which controls the uniformed police, for not doing his duty. Cafkov comes from the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party whose supporters stormed the parliament.

Nuhiu said that despite being head of the operational HQ in charge of dealing with potential violence, Cavkov was not in the HQ for two hours after the violence started, nor did he respond to the minister’s telephone calls.

“Some of the [police] employees, instead of respecting the law and carrying out their duties, act on orders coming from political centres. This must be sanctioned,” Nuhiu claimed.

Cavkov did not reply to the accusations.

On Friday, the Ombudsman Ixhet Memeti also pinpointed the responsibility of the police.

“The Ombudsman’s office criticizes the passivity of the police who, evidently from yesterday’s video footage, although present, failed to react and allowed the violence, while journalists were prevented from doing their job,” the Ombudsman said.

The violence began just after 6pm local time after a majority of 67 MPs in the 120-seat parliament elected a new speaker, Talat Xhaferi – the first step towards establishing a new opposition-led coalition government.

The VMRO DPMNE party, which has been trying to prevente the election of a new speaker and a new government for a month, called the move unlawful and an “attempted coup”.

Police intervened only after 8pm when they shut off the electricity in the building and used stun grenades to drive the crowd out of the parliament and evacuate MPs and journalists.

Several news outlets, including Radio Free Europe, Meta news agency, Telma TV, Radio MOF and 24 news TV, reported that their journalists and cameramen were physically attacked or their equipment has been destroyed by protesters.

Deliberately attempt to ‘murder’ MPs

At a press conference on Friday, SDSM leader Zaev said that what happened was a “deliberate attempt to murder” a number of targeted MPs.

“What happened yesterday was not a result of angry individuals. The violence is a result of the remainders of the crumbling regime which in the past ten years has been violating the constitution and democracy in this country,” Zaev said, singling out VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, President Gjorge Ivanov, former speaker Trajko Veljanoski and the head of the Public Safety Bureau, Mitko Cavkov, as initiators of the violence.

He said the new majority had made “a big step forward in the democratic processes” by electing a new speaker on Friday and that “these processes will continue until the formation of a new reform-oriented government”.

In a televised address delivered just past midnight, VMRO DPMNE leader Gruevski blamed the SDSM and the parties who supported the new parliamentary majority for causing the violence.

The SDSM “had consciously decided to break the law, the constitution and the parliament rule book, thus directly causing the events [in the parliament], and they bear responsibility for them,” Gruevski said, adding, however, that he condemned the violence.

“I want to condemn the violence done by individuals who attacked and injured a number of MPs. I have never justified violence,” Gruevski said.

Gruevski said his party would announce soon the next steps it plans to take in preventing the formation of what he called an illegitimate government.


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Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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