Macedonia's main political leaders will meet in hopes of resolving a deadlock that has roiled the country. Thousands have taken to the streets following opposition reports that the government spied on citizens.
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Social Democrat head Zoran Zaev (pictured) and two ethnic Albanian leaders - Ali Ahmeti, who heads a coalition partner to Gruevski's VMRO, and Menduh Thaci, leader of an opposition party - planned to meet Monday. Reports that the government had wiretapped 20,000 people plunged Macedonia into its deepest standoff since the country gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
"Gruevski managed something that no one other Macedonian politician did in the past 24 years of Macedonia's independence," a protester told DW on Sunday. "He united the people against him."
On Sunday, people traveled to the capital, Skopje, from across Macedonia to express their displeasure with Gruevski, who said over the weekend that he would not resign or accept a transitional government. There were also several reports of would-be protesters stopped by the police and not allowed to join the demonstrations, which were attended by some regional and European politicians.
'Until Gruevski resigns'
Twenty-thousand protesters marched through Skopje on Sunday to demand that Gruevski step down, accusing him of corruption, mass wiretapping and of fomenting ethnic tensions to hang onto power. According to the opposition, hundreds slept in a protest camp outside the offices of the embattled prime minister. In power since 2006, Gruevski expects thousands of his own supporters to turn out for a counterdemonstration 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away at the parliament building Monday night.
The opposition leader Zaev has called on demonstrators to stay on the streets in front of the government's neoclassical headquarters "until Gruevski resigns" and makes way for a technocratic government that would oversee a fair vote. Zaev's Social Democrats have boycotted parliament since the 2014 elections, which the party accuses the VMRO of rigging.
Since early March, Zaev has been releasing recorded conversations and other material that has suggested massive wiretapping, widespread corruption, and interference in the judiciary and the media by Gruevski and his government. Flags taken up by those who have heeded Zaev's call include the banners of Albania - up to 30 percent of the country's 2.1 million people are ethnically Albanian - Macedonia, Roma and many of the nation's various other ethnic communities.
Some members of the opposition have also accused the regime of politicizing a "terrorism raid" on an ethnic Albanian district that left 30 people dead earlier in May. Macedonia's interior and transport ministers resigned as part of the fallout, as did the intelligence chief.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)