Macedonian President's Amnesty in Wiretapping Scandal Sparks ControversySoutheast Europe | April 13, 2016, Wednesday // 11:25| views
Protesters clash with police during the protest against Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov`s decision on wiretapping amnesty, in Skopje, Macedonia, April 12, 2016.
A decision by Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov to halt all proceedings against politicians allegedly involved in last year's wiretapping scandal has drawn fire both home and abroad.
On Tuesday Ivanov said he would grant a "general amnesty" on everyone who is thought to be involved, arguing that politics in the country had turned into a race between those willing to "launch more criminal investigations or to raise criminal charges against the others."
Ivanov's move comes months before early elections due in June. The country plunged into a political crisis after then-opposition socialists began leaking wiretapped recordings of telephone conversations showing the VMRO-DPMNE government of ex-PM Nikola Gruevski had conducted illegal surveillance on officials, magistrates, journalists and others. The scandal that broke caused political instability and protests, with EU and US brokers stepping in to help politicians agree to early elections in 2016, with Gruevski resigning in January.
On Tuesday evening, protesters gathered at several sites in Macedonia's capital Skopje to vent their anger, rallying in front of different state institutions including the Special Prosecutor's Office and the Presidency, Macedonian daily Utrinski Vesnik reports.
The vast majority of demonstrators headed to the VMRO-DPMNE headquarters, trying to break through a police security cordon around the building.
Socialist opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who also attended the rally, called on the President to step down, adding his decision is tantamount to a "coup d'etat".
"I neither seek nor accept to be granted amnesty. Not all of us are criminals," Utrinski quotes him as saying, accusing the President of seeking to protect VMRO-DPMNE.
Others gathered to protest in front of the SDSM headquarters to state they were appalled by Zaev's amnesty.
Embattled VMRO-DPMNE also issued a statement saying it "strongly disagreed" with Ivanov on the amnesty. Ali Ahmeti's ethnic Albanian DUI party also lashed out at the development, calling it "premature".
EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has also raised concerns, adding on Twitter Ivanov's actions are not in line with his understanding of the rule of law.
Hahn has also said he has "serious doubts if credible elections are still possible".
"Political leaders must know that the actions we have seen recently put the #EuroAtlantic future of their country seriously at risk" 3/4— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) April 12, 2016
MIA news agency earlier quoted other EU officials as saying the amnesty is harmful to all political players, but mostly to citizens.
The United States said the move raises a serious concern over Macedonia's commitment to the rule of law.