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Protesters break in Macedonia’s parliament, attack MPs over speaker election

Protesters break in Macedonia’s parliament, attack MPs over speaker electionThe protesters stormed parliament on Thursday night after the country’s opposition Social Democrat party and others representing Macedonia’s Albanian ethnic minority voted for a new speaker.

This is reported by The Guardian.

Shouting and throwing chairs, the protesters attacked MPs, including the opposition leader, Zoran Zaev.

Television footage showed Zaev bleeding from the forehead and other Social Democrat MPs surrounded by protesters waving national flags, shouting “traitors” and refusing to allow them to leave. Broken glass littered the floor and traces of blood were seen in hallways.

Police later fired flash grenades in an attempt to disperse protesters outside the parliament and clear the way for the evacuation of politicians still in the building.

In a televised address, the country’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, called for calm and said he had summoned the leaders of the country’s main political parties for a meeting on Friday. Ivanov said the constitution had been violated and appealed “for reasonable and responsible behaviour”.

Macedonia has been without a government since last December when former prime minister Nikola Gruevski’s conservative party won elections, but without enough votes to form an administration.

Coalition talks broke down over ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian be recognised as an official second language in a country where a quarter of the population is ethnic Albanian.

Zaev has been seeking a mandate to form a government for months, after reaching an agreement with an ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, to form a coalition. However, Ivanov refused to hand him the mandate.

The assembly of the republic of Macedonia, as the Balkan nation’s parliament is known, has been deadlocked for three weeks over the election of a new speaker. Zaev had suggested earlier on Thursday that one could be elected outside normal procedures, an idea immediately rejected by the conservative party as an attempted coup.

Zaev went ahead with the vote, and a majority in the parliament elected Talat Xhaferi, a former defence minister and a member of the Democratic Union for Integration.

Police said about 10 officers were injured during the melee and reinforcements were sent to assist those inside the parliament building.
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