Mr Ivanov's decision came after the Special Prosecutor's Office (SPO) started investigating high-ranking Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) officials for election rigging, illegal destruction of surveillance equipment and politically motivated abuse of individuals in police custody. From February to July 2015 the SDSM released wiretaps allegedly revealing the involvement of VMRO-DPMNE officials in rigging the 2014 parliamentary election. The SPO was established to investigate the wiretaps, as a result of the EU-mediated July 2015 Przino Agreement. In February 2016 the SPO accused several high-ranking officials, many of whom were VMRO-DPMNE members, of committing fraud in the 2013 local elections. The SPO has become a clear partisan issue. The VMRO-DPMNE portrays the SPO as corrupt and inept, whereas the SDSM claims that the SPO is being obstructed in its investigations of alleged VMRO-DPMNE wrongdoing.
Mr Ivanov's decision to pardon 56 individuals, many of whom are under criminal investigation by the SPO, undermines the SPO's role. However, on April 13th the special prosecutor, Katica Janeva, stated that the SPO's work had not ended and opened a new investigation into the mayor of Bitola for abuse of public funds.
President pardons officials under criminal investigation
A wide range of pardoned individuals
Street protests continue
Condemnation from Western diplomats
Political polarisation and social unrest ahead