Several thousand Macedonians protested in the capital Skopje on Saturday, calling on the conservative government to step down amid a dire economic crisis in the former Yugoslav republic.


The rally, organised by the opposition left-wing SDSM party, came after the government adopted the 2013 budget Monday amid a series of skirmishes inside and outside the parliament.

Seventeen people, including 11 policemen and two deputies, were slightly injured in the scuffles.

Police said about 4,000 people protested without incident in front of the premises of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party in central Skopje on Saturday.

"We gathered here as we do not have a real parliament and a real government," SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski said.

"This government can not even breathe without taking a loan," he added.

Macedonia slipped into recession this year, with its economy impacted by neighbouring Greece's financial crisis.

The unemployment rate has reached around 31 percent in this landlocked Balkan country with some two million inhabitants.

"We had enough from this government, they are just spending and we have no money to pay bills and feed our children," unemployed factory worker Stojanca Kostev said.

The 2013 budget forecast 2.7 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in spending and 2.4 billion euros in revenues. The budget is based on a projection of two-percent growth and an inflation rate of 3.5 percent.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]