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Macedonian nationalists resume protests against government

© AFP | Protesters demonstrate in front of the Parliament building in Skopje on May 2, 2017, a few days after violence erupted after nationalist protesters stormed the building in anger over a vote for a new speaker

SKOPJE (AFP) - 

Thousands of nationalist demonstrators resumed their protests in Skopje on Tuesday against a plan for a coalition government that includes ethnic Albanian parties, five days after they burst into parliament and assaulted lawmakers.

The protesters allege that a deal struck between the Social Democrats (SDSM) to govern alongside ethnic Albanian parties, which emerged as kingmakers after an early election in December, would threaten national unity.

The accord would sideline the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party of former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, which opposes in particular a plan to make Albanian the official language.

Last Thursday evening the protesters stormed parliament over what they said was an illegal vote for a new parliamentary speaker, ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi.

The riots, condemned by both the European Union and the United States, injured about 100 people, including the SDSM leader Zoran Zaev.

The SDSM and their allies accuse the VMRO-DPMNE of inciting the violence and fanning ethnic divisions in a bid to cling to power.

"We've been ignored for 60 days. We will continue to come," Bogdan Ilievski, one of the organisers of the protest, said outside parliament, where a strong police presence had been deployed.

"We have to continue our battle, we don't have another country," he said.

The protests were peaceful, though local media reported that an incendiary device had been found.

Ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of Macedonia's population of two million.

© 2017 AFP