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News 26 Oct 17

Macedonia Prosecution Probes Local Election Fraud Claims

Macedonia’s Public Prosecution has started looking into possible electoral irregularities after the opposition leader accused the government of illegally bugging him and his party during the local election campaign.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonia's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Photo: MIA

The prosecution confirmed on Wednesday that it is taking seriously allegations made by the main opposition VMRO DPMNE party and its leader Nikola Gruevski of wiretapping and election fraud place during the ongoing local election process.

“Actions are being taken which are currently at a pre-investigation phase,” the prosecution told 24 Vesti TV in a statement.

It said that it has received several complaints from political parties which it did not name due to the secrecy of the pre-investigation procedures.

The prosecution is taking action after right-wing VMRO DPMNE leader Gruevski accused the Social Democrat-led government of massive “fabrication” of the election results, saying the results in the first round were more characteristic of undeveloped African countries.

Gruevski said this after suffering a heavy defeat during the first round that took place in October 15, despite the fact that the international monitors from OSCE/ODIHR assessed the voting as fair and democratic. 

He also claimed that there had been a lot of pressure on voters before the second round of voting slated for Sunday, and claimed that the government has spent some 20 million euro on election bribery.

“Who has an interest in investing so much money for this criminal and traitor [Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev] to remain in government and to even claim victory at these elections?” Gruevski was cited by local media as saying at a party rally on Tuesday in Ljubash, near the town of Kavadarci.

Gruevski also claimed that each day of the campaign, his party receives new, specific data of this alleged bribery, which it reports to the authorities.

He alleged however that “there is no reaction” to the party’s reports.

On Saturday, during a TV appearance, Gruevski also accused the police of illegally wiretapping him and some 100 members of his party leadership.

The government and the main ruling Social Democrats strongly denied all of these allegations.

The Social Democrats on Wednesday welcomed the actions taken by the prosecution to investigate the claims.

They noted that that this was not the case in early 2015, when they were in opposition and released batches of illegally wiretapped conversations, accusing Gruevski of masterminding the bugging of some 20,000 people, including his own ministers.

Gruevski has himself been charged, along with some of his clest associates, with election rigging during past campaigns.

Top-ranking former and current VMRO DPMNE officials who used to head the secret police are also charged in another case which aims to identify who ordered and carried out the mass eavesdropping that was revealed in 2015.

Gruevski’s party, which was widely accused of authoritarian tendencies and corruption, was in power for 11 years until the election of a new government led by Zaev in May.

This happened after a two-and-a-half-year political crisis which saw Gruevski’s party insisting it was framed for the wiretapping by unnamed foreign services and eventually refusing for several months to hand over power to the new majority in parliament under the pretext that it was protecting national interests.

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