200 protesters storm Macedonia's parliament as ethnic tensions flare

As recently featured on the CIVICUS Monitor, ethnic tensions in Macedonia have worsened due to the country's ongoing political crisis. Latest developments in the country illustrate an increasingly difficult sociopolitical environment in which independent civic groups must combat rising xenophobic tendencies and sentiments.

Peaceful Assembly

On 27th April 2017, nationalist protesters stormed the Macedonian Parliament in Skopje to decry the election of a new parliamentary speaker, Talat Xhafer, an ethnic Albanian. Xhafer was elected with the support of the opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) and parties representing Macedonia’s Albanian minority.

Waving Macedonian flags, 200 protesters fought their way through police barricades, entering the press room where they clashed with politicians, police and journalists. The individuals behind the protest are reportedly part of the initiative, "For The Common Macedonia", which is affiliated with the former ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE. 

VMRO-DPMNE thus far have been unable to secure enough votes to form an administration, which has led to an ongoing political crisis with widespread civil unrest. Coalition talks broke down after ethnic Albanian representation in the legislature proposed that Albanian be formally recognised as a second language in Macedonia. Civic movements aligned with VMRO-DPMNE have also opposed a coalition between the SDSM and parties representing ethnic Albanians, claiming such a union would threaten national unity. Around a quarter of Macedonia's population are ethnic Albanians. 

As the situation yesterday descended into chaos, early reports showed that chairs were thrown and fights erupted, injuring 102 people. Politicians, journalists and police officers were seriously injured in the clashes. Security officers used stun grenades to break up the fighting as tensions escalated. VMRO-DPMNE's leadership has condemned the violence; however, this serious incident is indicative of an only worsening social and political crisis in a presently very divided country.