Macedonia on a road to nowhere

Our correspondent describes the mood in Skopje as rival crowds face-off amid allegations of corruption against the PM.

Nikola Gruevski
Gruevsky's supporters say only the prime minister can keep the country safe from harm [AP]

There could not have been a more marked contrast between two crowds separated by a few hundred metres but by a gulf in attitudes.

The rally in Skopje, organised in support of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevsky, listened to a playlist of nationalist anthems including one with the lines: “Those damn spies.”

It is an old tune with a contemporary usage: the VMRO governing party considers the opposition SDSM socialists traitors who are destabilising Macedonia.

Just as I was describing on air the allegations plaguing Gruevsky’s government, the music ceased and a minute’s silence was held in respect for eight fallen police officers shot in a gun battle last weekend in the town of Kumanovo with suspected Albanian gunmen.

More than a few eyes narrowed in my direction as Gruevsky and the word corruption fell within the same sentence. 

For most of those gathered do not believe, or have not heard, the leaked tape recordings implicating the prime minister with abuses of power.

Instead, the leaks and the Kumanovo violence fall within the same narrative – that dark forces threaten Macedonia, and that only the prime minister can keep his country safe from harm.

On the other side of Skopje’s city centre, a few thousand opposition supporters are partying amongst the tents erected in front of the prime minister’s office.

Either the riot police assembled at the end of the street will break up the party, or they will stay until Gruevsky resigns.

Talking Heads’ Road To Nowhere plays on the sound system. That may be the road for Macedonia unless the gulf can somehow be bridged. 

Source: Al Jazeera