Masked protesters injure MPs in Macedonian parliament
Demonstrators storm parliament after ethnic Albanian is elected speaker
A Macedonian lawmaker is in critical condition and several MPs and journalists have suffered injuries after masked protesters attacked and sequestered them inside the parliament on Thursday, local news outlets reported.
The protesters demonstrating in front of the parliament in the capital Skopje stormed the building after ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi was elected as speaker of parliament.
Live television footage showed anti-Albanian protesters injuring the leader of the Social Democrats Zoran Zaev. The majority coalition led by his party supported Xhaferi.
The parliament building has been evacuated, and a total of 42 people, including lawmakers and journalists, sought help at local medical centers for various injuries, according to reports.
MP Ziadin Sela was hospitalized in a critical condition, media reports said.
An Anadolu Agency cameraman, whose identity has been withheld for their safety, said they were held inside the parliament for several hours before being released, and some journalists were beaten and bloodied by protesters who asked them which media outlet they worked for.
The demonstrations have been organized by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE).
On Thursday night, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov called an emergency meeting to resolve the crisis.
"There is no issue that cannot be resolved through dialogue in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Macedonia," Ivanov said. "I therefore urge the leaders of the parliamentary parties that tomorrow they come into my office for a meeting of leaders to discuss the situation."
The United Nations said in a statement that it was following the developments "with great concern", calling for restraint.
"Violence directed at democratic institutions and elected representatives of the people is unacceptable," it said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was "shocked" by the attack.
"All parties must respect the democratic process. They must support dialogue, not violence," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".
"Democracy must run its course. We take positive note of the election of Talat Xhaferi as Speaker of the Parliament, as reported," the statement added.
Macedonia has been an EU candidate country for over a decade, but the parties have yet to launch accession negotiations.
Reporting by Kayhan Gul;Writing by Ayse Humeyra Atilgan, Ilker Girit
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