Under international pressure, the Macedonian parliament yesterday (19 May) changed the law to enable President Gjorge Ivanov to revoke pardons he granted to more than 50 people implicated in a wiretapping scandal that has shaken Macedonian politics.
The former Yugoslav republic has been in turmoil since February 2015, when the opposition accused then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief of wiretapping more than 20,000 people.
Macedonia’s chief opposition figure accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Monday of wire-tapping journalists, religious and opposition leaders, deepening a scandal that has engulfed the European Union candidate country in recent weeks.
Under an EU-brokered agreement, Macedonian politicians have agreed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal and to hold early elections, but the process is fraying.
The crisis deepened last month when Ivanov drew protests by pardoning 56 officials over the scandal.
Protesters ransacked the offices of Macedonia’s presidency late yesterday (13 April) and set fire to the furniture, as thousands took to the capital’s streets in a deepening political crisis.
The move prompted three out of four parties to boycott an election scheduled for 5 June. On Wednesday, parliament cancelled the election.
Crisis-hit Macedonia on Wednesday (18 May) postponed elections due next month, after the European Union called on Skopje to delay the polls in order to ensure they could take place freely and fairly.
As a result of Thursday’s parliamentary vote, the president will now be able to revoke pardons within 30 days.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee said the pardons had damaged the rule of law and the country’s credibility. He urged Ivanov to rescind them “in a way that is clear, comprehensive and unambiguous”.
“If leaders revoke the pardons in only a partial or selective manner, this type of revocation will add to what is a growing sense of impunity in this country and a lack of accountability,” Yee said after meeting political leaders in Skopje on Thursday.
Opposition parties did not attend the session, saying pardons should be revoked across the board and the process should not depend on decisions by the president.
In an effort to deal with the effects of the wiretapping scandal, parliament changed the law to ban publication of information that would endanger the privacy of individuals and the use of such information for electoral or political goals.
Lawmakers also changed the electoral law to regulate disputes relating to the organisation of future polls.
NATO and the European Union, which Macedonia aspires to join, have already warned the country to revoke the pardons.