May 19, 2016 / 5:52 PM / 2 years ago

Macedonia passes law to enable disputed pardons be revoked

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Under international pressure, the Macedonian parliament on Thursday changed the law to enable President Gjorge Ivanov to revoke pardons he granted to more than 50 people implicated in a wiretapping scandal that has shaken Macedonian politics.

The former Yugoslav republic has been in turmoil since February 2015, when the opposition accused then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief of wiretapping more than 20,000 people.

Under an EU-brokered agreement, Macedonian politicians have agreed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the scandal and to hold early elections, but the process is fraying.

The crisis deepened last month when Ivanov drew protests by pardoning 56 officials over the scandal.

The move prompted three out of four parties to boycott an election scheduled for June 5. On Wednesday, parliament canceled the election.

As a result of Thursday’s parliamentary vote, the president will now be able to revoke pardons within 30 days.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Yee said the pardons had damaged the rule of law and the country’s credibility. He urged Ivanov to rescind them “in a way that is clear, comprehensive and unambiguous”.

“If leaders revoke the pardons in only a partial or selective manner, this type of revocation will add to what is a growing sense of impunity in this country and a lack of accountability,” Yee said after meeting political leaders in Skopje on Thursday.

Opposition parties did not attend the session, saying pardons should be revoked across the board and the process should not depend on decisions by the president.

In an effort to deal with the effects of the wiretapping scandal, parliament changed the law to ban publication of information that would endanger the privacy of individuals and the use of such information for electoral or political goals.

Lawmakers also changed the electoral law to regulate disputes relating to the organization of future polls.

NATO and the European Union, which Macedonia aspires to join, have already warned the country to revoke the pardons.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Giles Elgood

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