Tens of thousands of people gathered in the square in the centre of Skopje on Monday evening. The movement is dubbed as “Colourful revolution”, “sciarena revoluzia” in Macedonian, as demonstrators used paint-filled balloons to target government buildings. For the past seventy days Macedonians have been taking to the streets, exasperated by the unprecedented political crisis affecting the Country for the past year. And the protests continue.
Demonstrations and violence. Protestors started their march, named the “Citizens for Justice” rally, at the usual starting point, in front of the Special Prosecution Office, tasked with investigating the wiretapping scandal that involves various political leaders. Demonstrators thus showed their support to the institution before continuing their march towards Parliament and Council of Ministers seats. At a certain point the tension rose and a group of protesters started throwing stones against the windows of the Ministry of Justice, tried to tear down the huge statue of Prometheus and again threw paint balloons on institutional buildings.
The outbreak of the political crisis. “The protests show that Macedonia is affected by a serious illness – journalist Nikolay Krastev, Balkans expert, told SIR. “It all began with the wiretapping scandal that involved the government led by Premier Nikola Gruevski , member of VRMO”, the democratic Party for National Unity, in power until past January.
Members of the opposition revealed the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people, including politicians, NGO representatives, journalists and religious leaders.
The government formerly led by Gruevski fell as result. “Despite repeated attempts to hold new elections with the support of EU mediation, negotiations among the main political forces were interrupted, and a solution is nowhere to be seen”, Krastev said.
The requests. Skopje’s political crisis was discussed during a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers who agreed on the need for open dialogue among the various players, along with compliance with the Przino Treaty that provides for the holding of free elections, highlighting the urgency to contain internal unrest.
But the lack of future prospects makes the protest more violent.
On the evening of June 20 protesters clashed with police forces. Demonstrators lost their patience after politicians failed to meet the movement’s deadline, which was scheduled for Saturday. The movement’s requests include, inter alia, the end of all forms of persecution or intimidation towards protestors, a transitional government in view of democratic elections, the resignation of the President of the Republic of Macedonia.
The role of President Ivanov. “The Head of State, Gjorgje Ivanov, VMRO leader, is one of those responsible for this situation – said Krastev -; instead of pardoning 56 politicians involved in the scandal of wiretapping, he could have tried to be a mediator to achieve the desired agreement” with a view to democratic transition. On Tuesday June 21 the Macedonian Parliament rejected an impeachment proposal for President Ivanov. In the meantime, elections have been postponed already two times: members of the opposition argue there can be no free elections until the names of non-existing people are cancelled from electoral rolls. “VMRO governed the Country for ten years, creating a network of supporters who fear that such changes would exclude them from power”, Krastev remarked.
According to various international commentators, a large number of media outlets in Skopje are strongly influenced by the government and by the current ad interim leadership led by Emil Dimitriev, also a member of VMRO.
Forgotten by Europe. “There is no foreign policy” in Macedonia. What happens in the world is conveyed on the media in two minutes, before sport events, while the country is comparable to a Mongolian yurt: light years away from civilization and communication”, he wrote in an editorial published by the Macedonian newspaper “Dnevnik”. Macedonia gained independence in 1991, after the separation from Yugoslavia. Its population of just 2 million inhabitants is facing a large number of problems linked to unemployment and a stagnant economy. According to Krastev “the truth is that Europe, overly concentrated on itself, has forgotten the Western Balkans where the change and reconciliation process is far from completed.”
“Macedonia’s constant instability – he added – risks growing dangerous and break out in violence, notably on ethnic grounds. We must not forget the Country’s large Albanian minority population and the smoldering spectre of nationalism.”