There were violent scenes in the Macedonian capital Skopje on Wednesday night as protesters demanded the president step down over his decision to pardon dozens of people caught up in a wiretapping scandal.
An office used by President Gjorge Ivanov was ransacked by demonstrators and furniture set on fire.
Injuries and arrests were reported as some of the thousands who had taken to the streets clashed with riot police.
Ivanov is under fire for granting a blanket amnesty to those caught up in the phone-tap affair including former prime minister Nikola Gruevski – a political ally – and other prominent politicians.
The government denies claims it spied on more than 20,000 people.
But anger is a boiling point.
The opposition says the phone-taps exposed control over journalists and judges and the manipulation of elections in the Balkan country, which aspires to join both the European Union and NATO.
The president explained his decision to pardon 56 government and opposition figures by saying the
scandal had reduced Macedonian politics to a crippling competition of criminal investigations and charges, and that it had become “so tangled that nobody can untangle it”.
In Washington, the US State Department urged Ivanov to reconsider his decision so as to ensure “justice for the people of Macedonia”.
And US Ambassador Jess Baily said on Twitter: “A blanket pardon without due process protects corrupt politicians and their associates. Let the special prosecutor and courts do their jobs.”
A blanket pardon w/o due process protects corrupt politicians and their associates. Let #SPO and courts do their jobs.— Amb. Jess Baily (@AmbBaily) 13 avril 2016
The European Union brokered a deal with Macedonian authorities under which a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the allegations.
The government agreed to an early election and Gruevski stepped down as prime minister in January this year. The vote has now been put back until June and the opposition has pledged to boycott it.
The EU commissioner in charge of relations with would-be member states, Johannes Hahn, says he doubts whether credible elections are possible following Ivanov’s decision.
He has also urged an end to violence and a political solution.
#Skopje: "Call upon all political parties and responsible citizens to refrain from acts of violence" 1/2— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) 13 avril 2016
"Crisis can only be solved by political means. Responsibility of political parties to return to negotiation table" 2/2— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) 13 avril 2016
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