The protest in the central Macedonian town of Prilep gathered some 15,000 people. Several minor political parties joined the event under the so-called Front For European Macedonia.
Speakers at the rally accused the conservative government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party of increasing poverty and failing to bring the country closer to NATO and the EU.
The opposition called for early elections to be staged after the November NATO summit, pushing back the date in what they say is an effort to avoid hurting the country’s chances of entering NATO at the upcoming gathering.
“I hope that after the NATO summit all the necessary steps for early elections will take place,” Zoran Zaev, a vice president of the Social Democratic Party, told local A1 television.
The scheduled date for general elections is in 2012.
The date of Monday’s rally was chosen by the organisers to coincide with the October 11 national holiday, which Macedonia marks as the start of the uprising against the Fascist occupation in WWII.
Ever since the SDSM lost the country’s general elections in 2006, the party’s popularity has been in constant decline.
After spending one year restructuring, the SDSM has now launched its call for early elections. At a rally in Skopje in June, the Social Democrats gathered some 30,000 people, which was considered to be a significant success.
Nevertheless, various opinion polls have shown that support for VMRO DPMNE, though somewhat in decline, remains unchallenged.