An inconclusive parliamentary election in December further complicated matters. The leader of the Social Democrats, Mr Zoran Zaev, was injured along with Mr Ziadin Sela of the Alliance of Albanians.

Macedonia’s opposition has also warned its conservative rivals that they are playing with fire by using the ethnic card in a bid to stay in power.

Later that evening, a special unit of the interior Ministry of Macedonia carried out the operation to free the deputies, who blocked the Parliament of the Republic.

Speaking from inside parliament, MPs of Gruevski’s party called on protesters to take matters in their own hands, he added.

Without it, the ministry says, “impasses can lead to explosive situations”.

Police in Macedonia’s capital fired flash grenades and clashed with protesters gathered in front of the country’s parliament, leaving several people injured.

Protesters, some wearing hoods to disguise their identity, forced their way into the parliament after the vote to elect Talat Xhaferi as speaker.

Police officers inside the building had appeared to be overwhelmed by the protesters, who broke through a cordon and a refused to leave.

The protesters controlled the Parliament until a much larger group of police reinforcements arrived and managed to push them outside.

“Police actions were badly organised, especially compared to last year’s protests, policemen were even recorded to greet the protesters and sing nationalistic songs with them”, Andreja Stojkovski, president and senior researcher at the Skopje-based EUROTHINK – Centre for European Strategies, told SeeNews in a phone call referring to videos posted on the internet.

About 200 hundred Macedonian nationals stormed the parliament in Skopje and beat several lawmakers Thursday after an ethic Albanian was elected speaker, police said. That led to a stalemate, daily protests by VMRO supporters, and ultimately to the assault of April 27th.

But President Gjorge Ivanov opposes it, and politics is deadlocked.

A spokesman for the human rights organisation Council of Europe said the incident was “alarming”, while Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed concern over the “really dramatic” situation.

“No one from overseas can solve the problems if we can’t solve them in line with the state interests of the Republic of Macedonia“, Ivanov said.

The European Union and the United States condemned Thursday’s violence, with the EU saying that the cornerstones of democracy should be respected. Demands from lawmakers representing the country’s ethnic Albanian minority have stalled efforts to form a coalition government. He has offered his resignation a day after protesters stormed the parliament.

Photographs broadcast on local television showed blood on Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev’s face.

Thursday’s bloody clashes – in which more than 100 people, including the head of a small Albanian party and the leader of the Social Democrats, were injured by conservative protesters – have brought back memories of the violence from 16 years ago. The US said in the lead-up the vote was in line with the rules of the Macedonian parliament.

“I strongly condemn yesterday’s attacks on members of Parliament in Skopje. Democracy must run its course”, Hahn tweeted.