Macedonia Approves Budget Amid Violence

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) -- Macedonia's parliament approved the 2013 budget late Monday, amid clashes outside the building between rival groups of protesters that left at least three opposition lawmakers injured, police and party officials said.

Lawmakers voted 65-4 in favor of the €2.7 billion ($3.6 billion) draft budget in the Christmas Eve vote, as riot police were need to separate pro- and anti-government protesters, who hurled rocks and eggs at each other.

Other deputies were absent for the vote in the 123-seat parliament. Reporters were also ordered to leave the building before the vote.

The Social Democrat-led opposition accused the conservative government of spending too much on grandiose monuments, as well as expensive cars and furniture for state officials. The opposition had demanded that spending be trimmed by more than €200 million ($264.5 million). In an emergency meeting Sunday, the government agreed to cut just €3 million ($4 million).

Social Democrat leader Branko Crvenkovski, a former president of Macedonia, announced his party would boycott parliamentary proceedings indefinitely.

He urged his supporters to join a campaign of "civil disobedience" aimed at toppling Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservatives.

Crvenkovski argued that the budget was wasteful at a time when many in the country are struggling to make ends meet.

The budget must be adopted by year-end.


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