Government and opposition deputies brawled inside Macedonia's
parliament and their supporters hurled stones and bottles at
each other outside on Monday in an escalating dispute over
the proposed 2013 state budget.
Thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators clashed
in the centre of the capital Skopje outside parliament.
Special police in riot gear intervened to separate the two
groups, and local media said at least six people were hurt.
Inside parliament, security guards had to evacuate parliament
speaker Trajko Veljanovski from the plenary hall as
opposition deputies scuffled with pro-government counterparts
in an an effort to prevent the opening of the debate.
Opposition deputies left the building to join supporters in
the streets and the government then pushed through a 64-4
vote in favour of the budget proposal. Parliament has 120
Last month the small Balkan republic's centre-right
government proposed a 148-billion-denari ($US3.2 billion)
budget for 2013 with the deficit projected at 3.5 percent of
gross domestic product and growth at two percent of GDP.
The left-wing opposition faulted the proposal as profligate
at a time of economic downturn and asked for a cut equivalent
to about $US260 million. The government refused but the
opposition then submitted about a thousand amendments to the
Opposition leaders had accused the governing coalition led by
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of suspending democracy by
seeking to vote on the budget in a plenary session before
their proposed amendments were addressed in committees.
"If the government continues like that, it will suspend the
constitution and ... kill democracy in Macedonia before our
very eyes," Branko Crvenkovski, head of the opposition Social
Democrats, said before the vote.
Gruevski shot back: "This is all about the vanity of one man,
of (Branko) Crvenkovski and his political survival."
Macedonia's economy resurfaced from two quarters of recession
in the third quarter of 2012, posting 0.3 percent GDP growth.
The central bank has cut its 2012 growth forecast to zero
from 2.4 percent, reflecting the negative effect of the euro
zone crisis across the Western Balkans, but sees growth
perking up to 2.6 percent in 2013.