By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
An ethnic Albanian legislator threatened to torch the assembly if all other attempts fail to stop the passage of a controversial army bill that has angered Albanians.
Speaking at Thursday’s session dedicated to the draft law, Zijadin Sela, from the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, said he and others would burn down the parliament if they had to, to prevent adoption of the law.
“I will show you how one blocks this law,” Sela said. “You will see, when we occupy this podium, these microphones and this parliament and burn them”.
The draft law, pushed by the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, envisages state pensions, free healthcare and other benefits – but only for Macedonian army veterans of the 2001 conflict between government forces and Albanian insurgents.
Ethnic Albanian parties want the same rights extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters, or want the bill dropped altogether.
Sela accused the government’s ethnic Albanian junior partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, of not doing enough to block the law and protect Albanian interests.
Since it was submitted in mid-September, the DUI has blocked the bill, first by stalling the debate with long speeches, and then, when the main ruling party last month sought a shortened procedure, by filing more than 15,000 amendments.
Sela’s remarks came minutes after a majority at the session granted VMRO’s request to limit the length of parliamentary speeches to 10 minutes and that of replies to three minutes, to speed up the procedure.
The MP’s remarks caused much heat at the session after which a pause was called to avoid further escalation.
Previously, a DUI legislator, Ermira Mehmeti Devaja, complained that the limits on speeches had “suspended democracy” and announced that her party would continue fighting against the bill’s adoption.
“Our determination to pass this bill is greater than yours is to block it,” VMRO DPMNE legislator Aleksandar Nikolovski replied.
The rift over the law has been at the centre of the crisis between the government partners.
After initially threatening to leave the government over the law, the DUI in mid-September stepped back from its threat, concluding that it would stay in the government, for now.