The President of Macedonia on Tuesday ended an investigation into allegations of government corruption and abuse of power, also pardoning all politicians involved in a 2015 wiretapping scandal. According to President Gjorge Ivanov [official website], the move came in an effort to defend national interests, but it has been called illegal by opposition leader Zoran Zaev. The sudden halt of the criminal inquiry goes against a previous agreement [NYT report] by leaders of the country’s four largest political parties to allow a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal and bring criminal charges if warranted. Ivanov stated that he was “convinced that this is a big step forward toward reconciliation,” and that the country should no longer waste time on the matter. This announcement has been met with widespread opposition, sparking protests and prompting EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn [official profile] to note that it may put Macedonia’s hopes for EU membership in jeopardy [BBC report].
Tensions have escalated in Macedonia since its April 2014 elections, in which the Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party again won the election, leading to Gruevski’s fourth consecutive term as prime minister amid allegations of fraud. In March 2015 the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern [JURIST report] at the ongoing political predicament surrounding the release of incriminating audio recordings of conversations between officials in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Zaev was charged earlier that year for attempting to overthrow the government with the aid of an unnamed foreign intelligence agency. In September 2014 a Macedonian court found Zaev guilty [JURIST report] of slandering Gruevski for claiming that Gruevski took a bribe in 2004 to facilitate a Serbian businessman’s purchase of a bank in Macedonia.