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Macedonia president calls meeting after mob attack on parliament

Macedonia’s president called an emergency meeting of political leaders Friday, hours after demonstrators — mostly supporters of the country’s dominant conservative party — attacked the parliament and assaulted opposition lawmakers.

Police said 77 people, including opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, the head of a small ethnic Albanian opposition party, and 22 police officers, were injured when demonstrators stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers overnight to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

Macedonian police escort opposition Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev with his head bandaged after he was injured in an attack on the parliament, in Skopje, Macedonia, April 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

It was unclear whether opposition party leaders would heed President Gjorge Ivanov’s call for a meeting to defuse the tensions.

The European Union condemned the violence, and said that the cornerstones of democracy had to be respected.

Clashes lasted for hours Thursday night, with police initially doing little to stop the invasion. Eventually, they used stun grenades to evacuate the building and free the lawmakers and journalists trapped inside.

Macedonia has been gripped by a deep political crisis for more than two years, and repeated efforts — including international mediation — have failed to improve the situation.

The country has been without a government since elections in December last year failed to give any party a governing majority.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that “violence is unacceptable, even more so when it happens in the house of democracy.”

Mogherini, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Malta, called the incident a “serious crisis that can be dangerous.”

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