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Macedonia Protesters Seek Early Elections, Oppose Name Change

Supporters join a rally of the Macedonian opposition VMRO-DPMNE party on June 2.
Supporters join a rally of the Macedonian opposition VMRO-DPMNE party on June 2.

Thousands of opposition supporters have protested outside Macedonia's main government building in the capital, Skopje, to demand early elections.

The VMRO-DPMNE party, which ruled from 2006-17, held a large antigovernment demonstration on June 2 against the left-wing government's one-year rule and wants early elections held in March or April next year.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, 43, took power in May 2017 after 11 years of conservative rule amid a deep political crisis sparked by a wiretapping scandal in 2015.

The opposition claims the government is incompetent, has wrecked the economy, lowered wages and pensions, and allowed corruption to flourish.

It also claims the government has damaged national interests by negotiating with Greece over a possible new name for the country.

Hristijan Mickoski, the leader of the VMRO-DPMNE, said his party will not support any constitutional effort to change the name of the country.

"We are very clear on this subject," he told the protest crowd.

Macedonia's dispute with Greece dates back to 1991, when it peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Athens objected to its neighbor's new name, saying it implied a territorial claim over Greece's northern province of Macedonia, which borders the Balkan country.

Zaev has pushed for a compromise agreement with Greece that envisages Macedonia adding a modifier to its name, such as “Northern” or “Upper,” but nationalists in both countries have resisted a deal.

Because of the issue, Greece has blocked Macedonia’s bids to join the European Union and NATO.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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