May 27, 2016 / 3:58 PM / in 2 years

Macedonian president revokes pardons for 22 politicians

SKOPJE (Reuters) - President Gjorge Ivanov on Friday revoked pardons he had granted to 22 politicians implicated in a wire-tapping scandal that has thrown Macedonia into political turmoil.

Gjorge Ivanov, President of Macedonia, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The scandal dates back to February 2015, when the opposition accused then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief of wiretapping more than 20,000 people.

In an EU-brokered deal, Macedonia’s political parties agreed to hold an early election and that a special prosecutor should investigate the scandal that exposed tight government control over journalists, judges and the conduct of elections.

But Ivanov’s decision last month to pardon 56 officials prosecuted over their involvement in the scandal drew nationwide protests that led to the cancellation of an election set for June 5.

“I have decided to cancel the decision to pardon all politically exposed people, altogether 22 of them,” Ivanov told a news conference at which he did not take questions.

It was unclear whether the 22 people included Gruevski, leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNER party, or Zoran Zaev, who heads the Social Democrats and is the most prominent opposition politician among those who were pardoned.

Ivanov’s decision seemed to have gone some way to meeting the demands of the international community and the opposition, although they had called for all the pardons to be revoked.

The Macedonian parliament is expected next week to begin proceedings for Ivanov’s impeachment signed by 50 MPs led by the Social Democrats.

Under international pressure, the EU-candidate country’s parliament last week passed legislation that enabled Ivanov to revoke his decision to pardon officials.

Reporting by Kole Casule; writing by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Giles Elgood

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