Tension in Skopje, Talat Xhaferi is elected Assembly Speaker in a situation of chaos

Tension in Skopje, Talat Xhaferi is elected Assembly Speaker in a situation of chaos

In Skopje, Parliament approved on Friday afternoon the election of its new speaker, following a political crisis which has been lasting for months. Talat Xhaferi, former minister of Defence and former leader of “Liberation Army of Macedonia”, was elected the new speaker of parliament with the votes of Albanian parties and SDSM led by Zoran Zaev.

Immediately after the voting, when Xhaferi hadn’t yet taken his oath, protesters led by VMRO-DPMNE of Nikola Gruevski reacted. A part of them managed to enter the Parliament’s premises, to cause a chaotic situation there lasting several minutes and where physical violence was involved. This caused police forces to intervene in order to neutralize the situation.

Foreign ambassadors react

Foreign ambassadors accredited to Skopje issued a joint statement late on Thursday in relation to the developments in Parliament.

The reaction came after protesters entered Parliament by using violence and by attacking journalists and MPs, among whom was also the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev.

The EU-USA ambassadors said that “this is unacceptable and we call on everyone to contain from the acts of violence and rhetoric that could escalate the situation”.

They added that “it is time for dialogue and not for violence”.

Meanwhile, the Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn condemned the attacks against MPs in Skopje adding that: “There’s no room for violence in Parliament. Democracy must continue its path”.

Latest developments reported by IBNA’s correspondent in Skopje, Naser Pajaziti

There is information that some of the MPs were physically attacked and were injured, with bloody faces among which is SDSM’s party leader Zoran Zaev. Protestors were spread across the halls of the Parliament.

The protestors entered the plenary hall. They were shouting “elections” and were singing patriotic songs. They managed to enter the press center where the journalists were located, including a part of the MPs.

Among the protestors there people wearing black masks. What was noticeable in Parliament was the lack of a large number of special police squads. From Parliament which is occupied by the protesters, Zaev said that he is convinced that the Ministry of Interior will not allow an escalation of the situation and will prevent major incidents.

“I am convinced that the Ministery of Interior can do its job. I call on the people to be calm and I believe this will end soon. We were told by the Minister of Interior that they have taken certain measures. The time and the evidence will show what happened and how the people have entered the Parliament”, said Zaev.

Violence began when Talat Xhaferi was elected as Speaker of Parliament. The chairman of the constitutive session was MP Ferid Muhić, as the second in line, Branko Manojlovski was absent from today’s session. Muhić chose Goran Misovski and Dzevad Ademi as his deputies, and the selection for Xhaferi to become Speaker was chaired by Misovski.

However, during this time, from the backbenches in the plenary hall, MPs from VMRO-DPMNE could be heard shouting “this is a coup” and “shameful”, and they sang the Macedonian anthem. After being elected with 61 votes, Xhaferi pledged his solemn oath of office and officially signed his sworn declaration, after which he repeated the ceremony in the Albanian language. MPs from the Besa Movement and DPA did not vote for the choice of Xhaferi.

The protesters of “For a United Macedonia” breached the police cordon and entered the Parliament. Inside they attacked a part of the SDSM’s MPs. Among the injured MPs are SDSM’s party leader, Zoran Zaev, his colleagues Damjan Manchevski and Maksim Dimitrievski, and Ziadin Sela from Alliance of Albanians.

VMRO-DPMNE reaction

VMRO-DPMNE’s president Nikola Gruevski had talks with the ambassadors of Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and Netherlands, Christine Althauser, Charles Garrett, Mats Staffanson and Wouter Plomp about the current political situation, the opinion, and stance of VMRO-DPMNE regarding its solution. At the meeting, during which the members of the party’s Executive Committee were present, Nikola Poposki, Nikola Todorov, and Vladimir Gjorcev, Gruevski announced to the ambassadors that “the fastest and the best way to solving the political crisis is to carry out early parliamentary elections along with the regular local elections.”

Regarding the debate at the Parliament, VMRO-DPMNE had stressed that the party is using all legal means for expressing their own opinions and positions.

“There is nothing illegal and there is nothing that hasn’t already happened in the past in Macedonia, Europe, and the world, basically it is the way by which VMRO-DPMNE is expressing its revolt against the acceptance and the imposing of the Tirana platform,” the statement said. VMRO-DPMNE has informed the ambassadors that in January, during the talks for a coalition with BDI, the party has stressed that it won’t be negotiating for an Albanian platform and after that the talks focused on the promotion of the use of languages of the non-majority communities in the municipalities where the population is above 20%. The party stressed that “a dialogue is necessary and a debate, within the institutions in order for the situation to move forward and for organizing elections as an exit from the crisis.” /balkaneu.com/