Macedonia crisis: Parliament calls off June poll amid turmoil

Protest in Skopje against presidential pardons (17 May) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Regular protests have been taking place ever since the president pardoned 56 people implicated in a wiretapping scandal

Macedonia's June election has been postponed after the constitutional court moved to halt electoral activities, amid intense pressure at home and abroad.

Opposition parties have boycotted the election because of prolonged political turmoil that has rocked the former Yugoslav republic.

The court declared the dissolution of parliament unconstitutional.

Parliament then reconvened and agreed to cancel the vote.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said conditions for the June poll "were not there" and all main political parties in the Balkan nation should now address the serious issues at the heart of the crisis.

In particular, she demanded the immediate rescinding of pardons handed down in April to 56 people implicated in a wiretapping scandal that sparked the turmoil in February 2015. A US embassy statement echoed the appeal, warning against "selective justice".

Macedonia president halts wiretapping inquiry

Protesters ransack president's office

Macedonia - profile of Balkan nation

Opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused the government last year of tapping the phones of more than 20,000 people, including politicians, journalists and religious leaders.

He produced a steady stream of recordings and made a series of allegations from corruption in the upper echelons of government to covered-up killings.

The government denied the accusations and said Mr Zaev was trying to destabilise Macedonia. Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski stepped down in January and was among those pardoned by President Gjorge Ivanov on 12 April.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn helped secure a deal last year for a special prosecutor to investigate the wiretaps and for early elections but the agreement has all but broken down.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protests spread across Skopje after the president pardoned more than 50 people in the wiretapping scandal in April

The president said in April that he wanted to "put an end to the agony" of the investigation and defend national interests ahead of the June vote.

His move led to outrage among opposition parties and thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Skopje and ransacked the president's office.

The president's decision left only Mr Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party planning to stand in the election. Further demonstrations involving both sides have been taking place for the past three weeks.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg added his voice on Wednesday to calls for President Ivanov to revoke the April pardons. Macedonia has ambitions of joining both Nato and the EU.

"The door of Nato is still open, but it is crucial that the country's leaders address problems on the rule of law," Mr Stoltenberg said.

German diplomat Johanes Haindl is due to visit Macedonia on Thursday for talks with political leaders.

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