Thousands Of Macedonians Protest Planned Coalition With Albanian Backing

The leader of the biggest opposition party SDSM Zoran Zaev greets supporters during a pre election rally in Skopje, Macedonia December 4, 2016. Ognen Teofilvovski/Reuters

Thousands of protesters flooded the city center of Macedonia's capital, amid concern from conservatives that the election deadlock between the nation's two biggest parties could result in controversial pro-Albanian concessions.

The conservative former ruling party Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO DPMNE) and the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) ended December's election with neither winning enough seats to form a majority government. The former won 51 seats, while the latter won 49 seats in the 120 seat parliament.

This made a deal with the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) instrumental for either side. Though no formal pact had been struck until Monday night, when SDSM called on parliament to back a coalition government between SDSM and DUI.

However, before the SDSM proposal had even gone to vote, VMRO DPMNE supporters and other protesters amassed in Skopje with Macedonian flags, voicing concern that a deal with the DUI could compromise Macedonian interests, Radio Free Europe reports.

"For a United Macedonia," was the main slogan of the protest, organised by a number of activist groups in the capital.

"No to Bilingualism," was one of the widely chanted slogans, as some expressed concern the deal could see Albanian become an official language in the country on par with Macedonian.

Protesters refrained from carrying party affiliated symbols. Instead they mostly carried Macedonian flags, simple slogans, chanted Macedonia and sang revolutionary and folk songs about dying for their country as they crossed the center of town. The march however, was a peaceful one.

Some anti-Albanian slurs such as "Shqiptar" were also heard, news website Balkan Insight, reports.

Protesters vowed to return for another march in the capital on Tuesday, while the SDSM expects to receive support to form its new coalition on Wednesday.