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Thursday, April 27, 2017
"Macedonian police fire stun grenades after protesters storm parliament" -- Reuters news article
Macedonian police fire stun grenades after protesters storm parliament
Macedonian police fired stun grenades on
Thursday evening to disperse protesters outside the parliament and clear
the way for the evacuation of lawmakers still in the building.
Protesters stormed into Macedonia's
parliament and assaulted the leader of the Social Democrats on Thursday
after his party and ethnic Albanian allies voted to elect an Albanian as
parliament speaker, witnesses said.
Live television footage showed Social
Democratic leader Zoran Zaev with blood trickling from one side of his
forehead, not long after he announced that the majority coalition led by
his party had elected Talat Xhaferi as parliament speaker.
A Reuters witness saw nationalist
protesters angered over Xhaferi's election beating up another lawmaker
in parliament. Broken glass littered the floor and traces of blood were
seen in hallways.
Some of the roughly 200 protesters inside
the parliament were masked. Witnesses said that police entered
parliament after the disturbances erupted but did not immediately seek
to quell the protesters.
EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for "calm and restraint"
"The acts of violence in the Parliament are wholly unacceptable," Mogherini said in a statement.
Police said eight people including an ethnic Albanian lawmaker were injured in Thursday's violence.
President Gjorge Ivanov invited leaders of all political parties for a meeting in his office on Friday.
Ivanov refused to give mandate to Zaev
who has forged the coalition with ethnic Albanian parties to form the
government saying it threatened the sovereignty of Macedonia.
Macedonia has been without a functioning
government since 2015 when the country sank into political turmoil over a
wiretapping scandal that brought down the ruling nationalist VMRO-DPMNE
Elections were held in December 2016 but no government has been formed yet.
Zaev's parliamentary alliance has
triggered daily street protests by Macedonian nationalists in Skopje.
Ethnic Albanians comprise a third of the country's population.
VMRO-DPMNE lawmakers challenged the
legality of Thursday's vote, saying it was not carried out
electronically as is the usual case because the parliamentary session
had formally ended.
The current crisis is the worst since
2001 when Western diplomacy helped drag the country of 2.1 million
people back from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian
insurgency, promising it a route to membership of the EU and NATO.
But Macedonia has made little progress in that direction due to a name dispute with Greece.
"I condemn the attacks on MPs in Skopje
in the strongest terms. Violence has NO place in Parliament. Democracy
must run its course," the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement,
Johannes Hahn, said in a tweet.
"This is the time for dialogue and not
for violence," Mats Staffansson, Sweden's ambassador to Skopje, told
reporters on behalf of EU and U.S. legations in Macedonia.
Shortly before protesters charged into
parliament, Zaev told reporters, "With 67 votes we have elected a new
parliament speaker. I want to congratulate Talat Xhaferi and good luck
to all of us."
Xhaferi became the first ethnic Albanian
parliament speaker in Macedonia since the small Balkan country won
independence from then-Yugoslavia in 1991.
(Additional reporting by Benet Koleka in
Tirana and Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Writing by Ivana Sekularac;
Editing by Mark Heinrich, Toni Reinhold)