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Macedonian parliament approves replacement of 2 ministers in escalating political crisis

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SKOPJE, Macedonia — The Macedonian parliament on Wednesday formally approved the replacement of the interior and transport ministers in Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's cabinet amid an escalating political crisis in the Balkan nation.

Lawmakers approved the replacements in a 71-2 vote with one abstention a day after the two and the state security chief resigned. The opposition is boycotting parliament and was not present.

Macedonia is facing its deepest political crisis since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The opposition Social Democrats claim the government illegally wiretapped the phones of 20,000 people, including police, judges, religious leaders, journalists and foreign diplomats. It has been airing leaked recordings purported to be those wiretapped conversations that appear to show corruption in the government.

PHOTO: Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, bottom, addresses the lawmakers in presence of the speaker Trajko Veljanovski, top, during a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabinet and a senior state security official, on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Skopje, Macedonia. Macedonian parliament has formally approved Wednesday the replacement of the interior and transport ministers in Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's cabinet amid an escalating political crisis in the Balkan nation. Parliament approved the replacements in a 71-2 vote with one abstention. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, bottom, addresses the lawmakers in presence of the speaker Trajko Veljanovski, top, during a session in the parliament after resignation of two ministers from Prime Minister's cabinet and a senior state security official, on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Skopje, Macedonia. Macedonian parliament has formally approved Wednesday the replacement of the interior and transport ministers in Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's cabinet amid an escalating political crisis in the Balkan nation. Parliament approved the replacements in a 71-2 vote with one abstention. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

The government, which denies the allegations, is facing opposition-organized mass protests next weekend. The Social Democrats are also calling for the resignation of Gruevski's government and a new election.

While Gruevski defended those who resigned as professionals who acted to ease political tensions, Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev said the resignations "are not enough."

Wiretaps allegedly with the voices of the three who resigned — Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska, Transport Minister Mile Janakieski and state security chief Saso Mijalkov — have been aired the most by the opposition.

"The resignations of Gordana Jankuloska, Mile Janakieski and Saso Mijalkov were not our ultimate goal. This is just a step to the end of Nikola Gruevski," Zaev wrote on Facebook. He added that all the illegal wiretaps his party has leaked have "proved to be authentic."

The new interior minister approved by parliament is Mitko Cavkov, acting head of the Bureau for Public Security, while the new transport minister is Vlado Misajlovski, former director of the state roads company. The government will appoint the top intelligence official.

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