Protests in the Macedonia, opposition leader injured

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Protesters in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, broke through a police cordon and rushed into parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government.

A Macedonian opposition leader was among the lawmakers attacked when protesters stormed the country’s parliament building.

Photographs broadcast on local television showed blood on Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev’s face.

A spokesman for an ethnic Albanian party, Artan Grubi of the Democratic Union for Integration party, says Zaev and at least three other lawmakers were injured during the attack on Thursday night.

He says the violence marks “a sad day for Macedonia.”

The Macedonian opposition leader called for an end to a political deadlock that has left parliament unable to elect a speaker for three weeks.

Zoran Zaev suggested a new speaker could be elected outside normal procedures, an idea immediately rejected by the conservative party as an attempted coup.

Macedonia has been without a government since December, when former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s conservative party won elections, but without enough votes to form a government. Coalition talks broke down over ethnic Albanian demands that Albanian be recognized as an official second language. A quarter of Macedonia’s population is ethnic Albanian.

Zaev secured the cooperation of another ethnic Albanian party, giving him 69 of parliament’s 120 seats. But President Gjorge Ivanov refused to hand him the mandate to form a government.

Scores of protesters in Macedonia broke through a police cordon and entered parliament to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government.

The protesters pushed their way past police and attacked lawmakers late Thursday, after the country’s Social Democrats and parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority voted for a new speaker.

A senior European Union official has condemned the violent protests inside Macedonia’s parliament.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a tweet on Thursday that “Violence has NO place in Parliament. Democracy must run its course.”

Sweden’s ambassador to Macedonia, Mats Staffansson, speaking on behalf of other European diplomats, reminded the country’s politicians of the need for dialogue and said “it is the responsibility of the police of this country to make sure that this kind of violence does not happen.”

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