Macedonians rally against a government decision to grant mass pardon to officials accused of fraud and corruption, in Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, April 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Macedonia’s capital against a government decision to grant mass pardon to officials accused of fraud and corruption.
The demonstration, organized by the civil movement “Objection,” began on Thursday, with protesters marching from the state prosecutor’s office to the parliament building in the capital, Skopje.
Protesters were chanting “Resignation, resignation” and “Where there’s no truth, there’s no peace” and “Mafia to jail.”
Police, however, blocked the protester’s way when they reached the parliament building. Unable to break through the police lines, the protesters turned their way toward the main government building in the city. They also sprayed paint on several government institutions as well as a number of monuments.
Since April 12, thousands of people have been holding anti-government protests across Macedonia against President Gjorge Ivanov’s decision to grant pardons to 56 officials accused of ordering illegal wiretapping of communications, electoral violations and corruption.
Opponents have been calling on the president to revoke the amnesty and postpone the snap elections that he has called. The polls are due on June 5.
The president, however, insists that the pardons be granted.
The decision to grant amnesty to the officials has also sparked international condemnation, with the European Union (EU) warning that it may negatively affect the Balkan country’s chance to join the bloc.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said, “We would deeply regret any retrograde steps in Skopje that would move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession.”
The EU has invited Macedonia’s political leaders to negotiations aimed at resolving the crisis in Vienna, Austria, on Friday.
People protest against austerity measures in the Greek capital, Athens, April 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
In a separate development, anti-government protests have also been held in the Greek capital of Athens against scheduled government job cuts and reforms.
Hundreds of teachers gathered outside the Ministry of Education in Athens on Thursday, chanting slogans against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Minister of Education Nikos Filis.
They were pushing the gates of the ministry and shouting “the only way is resistance once again.”
The teachers say a draft law that would change employment policy will lead to fewer stand-by teachers working next year. They demanded the withdrawal of the draft law and called for the introduction of a new permanent recruitment system for teachers.
In November 2015, the administration of Premier Tsipras approved a law scrapping most early retirement benefits, raising the retirement age and increasing contributions for healthcare.
The prime minister, who last year accepted reforms in Greece
’s economy in return for a multi-billion-dollar assistance package by international creditors, is resisting pressure by lenders to impose a new round of deep cuts for pensioners.
His left-wing government has instead opted to increase social security contributions paid by employers, farmers and self-employed professionals. Some professional groups have protested the plans, with groups like lawyers abstaining from court duty for weeks.