North Macedonia’s prime minister apologises for using gay slur

Zoran Zaev speaking in front of a North Macedonia flag.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has apologised after using the Macedonia word for “f****t” to describe a gay man at the centre of a corruption scandal.

Speaking on Tuesday night (August 14) in the capital Skopje, Zaev reportedly said that he would not allow “a few criminals, one vain journalist and, I apologise in advance to the LGBTI community, a f****t, to topple the government.”

He was referring to Bojan Jovanovski, a TV personality-turned-businessman who was arrested in July in connection with a high-profile bribery case.

A few hours after his speech, Zaev apologised and said that the slur was “a popular colloquial term used to describe a deceitful, sleazy person, and was not intended to refer to anyone’s sexual orientation.”

I will not allow a f****t to topple the government.

“The LGBTI community has my greatest respect,” he added, according to Balkan Insight. “That’s why, before using the word ‘peder,’ I directed my apologies.”

Zaev insisted that he would continue to fight for LGBT+ rights, “as I did so far.”

Journalists and human rights campaigners condemn North Macedonia PM

The head of North Macedonia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Uranija Pirovska said that she was “disappointed” in Zaev

“Statements like this can spark more violence towards the LGBT community,” she wrote on Facebook.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) called Zaev’s anti-LGBT turn of phrase “unprecedented.”

“It does not match the profile of a serious politician and a top ranking state official,” a spokesperson told Balkan Insight.

Bojan Jovanovski taking a selfie in a salon chair

Bojan Jovanovski, also known as Boki 13. (Instagram/Boki 13)

Journalist Meri Jordanovska reportedly added that Zaev’s apology was “even more insulting for the LGBT community” than his use of the slur.

North Macedonia has made progress on LGBT+ rights in recent years, having historically been hostile to queer people.

In March, the national parliament approved a new anti-discrimination law hich brought North Macedonia in line with EU standards, as the country seeks EU accession.

Despite the legislation, hate crimes are said to remain “widespread.”

North Macedonia government hit with corruption scandal

The North Macedonia government has been treading water since its head prosecutor was implicated in the Jovanovski scandal.

The businessman and an associate were arrested in July after they were accused of bribing Orce Kamcev, one of the richest men in North Macedonia who is himself a suspect in another corruption case.

It has been claimed that Jovanovski told Kamcev he help him avoid jail or get a lighter sentence through his connections with the Special Prosecution.

The government became embroiled in the scandal after the Italian newspaper La Verita published a video which it said contained the voice of the two suspects and the chief of the Special Prosecution, Katica Janeva.

Janeva, who has since resigned, confirmed that the recording is genuine but has denied any wrongdoing.