Reuters International

SKOPJE (Reuters) - The Macedonian parliament on Wednesday called off a national election set for June 5 after most of the main political parties threatened to boycott the vote amid growing anger over a government wire-tapping scandal.

Amending the electoral law, the assembly did not set a new date for the vote, which had been called last month as part of a European Union-brokered deal to end political deadlock linked to the scandal.

But after more than 50 people implicated in the scandal received official pardons, three out of four political parties had said they would boycott the election. They argued that conditions did not exist for a free and fair vote, leaving the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party as the only one taking part.

The European Union, which Macedonia aspires to join, had also questioned the legitimacy of the election and has expressed concerns about the rule of law and democracy in the Balkan country.

Earlier on Wednesday Macedonia's top court had suspended all activities related to the election pending its ruling on whether the dissolution of parliament in April was in line with the constitution, the state news agency MIA reported.

NATO warned Macedonia not to let its political crisis wreck its hopes of joining the Atlantic alliance.

The West sees binding Macedonia and other poor Balkan states into both NATO and the EU as the best way of bringing stability and prosperity to a region long blighted by ethnic tensions, poverty and corruption.

The tiny ex-Yugoslav republic has been in turmoil since February 2015, when the opposition accused then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his counter-intelligence chief of wiretapping more than 20,000 people.

The wire-tapping exposed tight government control over journalists, judges and the conduct of elections.

Macedonians have been protesting on a daily basis since President Gjorge Ivanov last month pardoned 56 officials involved in the scandal.

The EU has threatened sanctions against Macedonian politicians it accuses of obstructing efforts to end the crisis.

Earlier this month, the central bank governor said growth in Macedonia's economy could be slashed by more than half to 1.6 percent in 2016 if the political crisis is not resolved by the end of the year.

(Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

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 Reuters International