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Thursday, April 27

Zoran Zaev hurt as protesters storm Skopje parliament

Leader of Social Democrats injured after violence broke out following election of ethnic Albanian as speaker.
Opposition leader Zoran Zaev was seen with blood on his face in the chaos [EPA]
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1 Comment Protesters have stormed into Macedonia's parliament and assaulted the leader of the Social Democrats (SDSM) after his party and ethnic Albanian allies voted to elect an Albanian as parliament speaker.
Police fired stun grenades to disperse protesters outside the parliament and clear the way for the evacuation of lawmakers trapped in the building on Thursday.
SDM leader Zoran Zaev was seen with blood on his face in the chaos.
Thousands protest in Macedonia
Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu told media that 10 MPs had been injured, as well as some police and journalists.
"In an attempt to take control of the situation inside and outside the parliament, we have ordered police to use all measures," Nuhiu, who is part of the interim government, said in a televised interview.
"We are using stun grenades in order to allow the evacuation of the MPs."
The violence erupted after more than 100 protesters supporting the rival nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem.
The protesters' move came shortly after Zaev announced that the majority coalition, led by his SDSM party, had elected Talat Xhaferi as speaker of the parliament.
"The scariest thing is that this was allowed to happen," Ivana Jordanovska, a political activist, told Al Jazeera from Skopje.
"For more than two years, we have seen how the police act when anti-government protests take place. And now [when the opposition is targeted], the police did nothing. The police was absent."
Neighbouring Albania's foreign ministry reacted to the violence, saying it was monitoring "the escalation of the situation in Macedonia with great concern".
In Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, called for people to "calm down" after Thursday's incident.
"People should not respond to provocations of the SDSM and those who want to push the state into even deeper crisis," he said on Facebook.
The violence erupted after more than 100 protesters entered parliament waving Macedonian flags and singing the national anthem [Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]
Gruevski and his nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party ruled Macedonia for a decade until December last year when the election saw VMRO-DPMNE secure 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament - two more than the SDSM - but the conservatives failed to reach a deal with kingmaking Albanian parties.
Although Zaev reached an agreement with the Albanian groups, President Gjorge Ivanov refused to give him a mandate to form a government, leaving the country without a functioning leadership.
An ally of Gruevski, the president expressed concern over the controversial demand of Albanian parties that Albanian be made an official language across Macedonia.
Critics of the demand feared it could lead to the break-up of the country of about two million people - a quarter of whom are ethnic Albanians.

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