Police in the Republic of Macedonia fired stun grenades to disperse protesters who stormed the parliament building overnight as the U.S. and the European Union condemned the spiraling violence, which deepened a five-month-old political crisis.
Scores of demonstrators forced their way into the legislature after the opposition Social Democrats and parties representing ethnic Albanians elected a parliament speaker in a vote that former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s party refused to recognize. The leader of the Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, was injured, along with Ziadin Sela, a member of the Alliance of Albanians.
The EU and the U.S. condemned the violence and welcomed the parties’ election of Talat Xhaferi as speaker of parliament.
“We will work with him to support democracy and to advance the interests of Macedonia,” the U.S. Embassy in Skopje said on its website. The violence in parliament “is not consistent with democracy and is not an acceptable way to resolve differences. It is critical all parties respect democratic processes and the law, and refrain from violent actions which exacerbate the situation.”
The former Yugoslav state of 2 million people has struggled to find a way out of its political deadlock after Gruevski failed to form a coalition government following an inconclusive snap vote. Gruevski’s ally, President Gjorge Ivanov, has refused to give a mandate to Zaev, who says he can form a majority-backed government with the ethnic-Albanian parties.
At least 100 people were hurt, including three lawmakers and 22 policemen who were helping evacuate the members of parliament overnight, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday. TV broadcast from Skopje showed police using stun grenades in clashes with protesters.
Ivanov invited the country’s political leaders to meet on Friday to discuss ways out of the crisis, he said in a televised statement in Skopje.
“No one from abroad can solve the problems if we can’t solve them in line with the state interests of the Republic of Macedonia,” Ivanov said.
European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn reiterated his appeal to Ivanov to give Zaev and his potential coalition partners a mandate to form a cabinet. The former Yugoslav republic is a candidate for EU membership.
“We condemn in the strongest terms today’s ongoing attacks on the members of the parliament in Skopje,” the European Commission said in a statement. “The Interior Ministry and the police must ensure the security of the Parliament and its members.”
Gruevski, whose party ally Emil Dimitriev is acting as interim prime minister until a new government is formed, appealed to politicians and citizens “to refrain from from actions that may cause inter-ethnic tension.”
“I never justified violence,” Gruevski said on his party’s website, adding that those responsible for the violence should be brought to justice. His VMRO-DPMNE party will announce their next steps in the next few days, he said.
The yield on the country’s euro-denominated bonds maturing in July 2021 was at 3.358 percent at 7:44 a.m. on Friday in Skopje after rising by one basis point on Thursday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.