Thousands of opposition supporters marched through the streets of North Macedonia's capital, Skopje, late on February 25 to protest injustice and alleged abuse of power by the country's former prime minister.
The march was organized by the conservative main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, led by Hristijan Mickoski, who voiced three demands as the crowd assembled at the main prosecutor's office before heading along the bank of the Vardar River.
He demanded an investigation into Zoran Zaev, the center-left prime minister who stepped down last month ahead of general elections, for alleged abuse of office.
Mickoski also called for urgent changes at the Judicial Reform Council and a review of the work of Supreme Court judges and their decisions.
Both Zaev's Social Democrat party and VMRO-DPMNE are campaigning for seats in early parliamentary elections on April 12.
As the protesters marched toward the Supreme Court building, they chanted, "We Want Justice" and, "Never North, Only Macedonia" as they waved the flag of North Macedonia and carried a banner that read, "Zaev Is Guilty."
The demands followed an audio recording that was released of a conversation in which Zaev, while still in office, allegedly implied having prior knowledge of what a prosecutor would recommend in a politically sensitive case.
VMRO-DPMNE said a whistle-blower gave them the recording.
Zaev has confirmed his voice was on the recording but maintained he said nothing improper. His party has rejected opposition allegations that Zaev abused the power of his office to interfere with the judiciary.
"Zoran Zaev is guilty because he is at the same time prime minister, prosecutor, and judge," Mickoski said during the rally. "He is guilty because he is the main racketeer, the main entertainer when it comes to gaffes and the main [governmental] bodies of our Macedonia."
He added that until changes are implemented at the Judicial Reform Council, its work should be suspended and that if a review of Supreme Court judges finds any irregularities, he expects them to resign.
Zaev's record as prime minister has seen triumphs abroad and blunders and scandals at home.
In 2 1/2 years, and in a difficult political atmosphere, his center-left government signed a historic friendship treaty with neighboring Bulgaria and a crucial agreement with Greece over its name.
These successes have brought imminent NATO membership to the Balkan country and a strong impetus for starting EU accession negotiations soon.
In his absence, Zaev handed power over to his former interior minister, Oliver Spasovski, to run a caretaker government.
With reporting by AP and Balkan Insight
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