SKOPJE, Macedonia – Macedonia’s new parliament speaker took office Wednesday, six days after his election prompted some angry protesters to storm the floor of parliament and attack several lawmakers.
Talat Xhaferi, an ethnic Albanian, has said he will formally ask President Gjorge Ivanov to hand left-wing opposition leader Zoran Zaev the mandate to govern as prime minister.
Zaev’s party placed second in a December parliamentary election, behind the conservatives who previously governed. Unlike the conservatives, he has struck a coalition deal with small ethnic Albanian parties.
The president earlier refused to give Zaev the mandate, saying Zaev’s pledge to consider enhancing the ethnic Albanian minority’s standing would undermine Macedonia’s sovereignty. Ivanov has 10 days to answer the new request.
Demonstrators protesting Xhaferi’s election as parliament speaker rioted in parliament last week, injuring 100. Criminal charges have been brought against 20 people over the violence; 12 of the suspects were detained in custody.
Police confirmed that a small incendiary device consisting of a gas cylinder attached to a firecracker was discovered Tuesday in a section of the parliament building where the offices of the speaker, lawmakers, and the press center are located.
There has been no claim of responsibility and no arrests over the device, which did not explode.
About 1,000 people gathered peacefully outside the parliament building in Skopje late Wednesday to protest political demands by Macedonia’s ethnic Albanians minority. The demands include making Albanian the country’s second official language.