Profile 01 Aug 16

Zoran Zaev: Macedonia’s Harbinger of Change

The youthful Social Democrat leader and former businessman dealt the Gruevski government a heavy blow by revealing thousands of Macedonians have been illegally wiretapped.

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic and Saska Cvetkovska
Zoran Zaev. Photo by: SDSM

Back in February 2015, just days before revealing evidence of mass, illegal wiretapping he claimed was orchestrated by the government, the 41-year-old leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party appeared resolute that, even under risk of being arrested, the truth had to be told.

“What is happening in Macedonia right now is evil and that evil will have to go,” Zoran Zaev told BIRN at the time, referring to his political foe, the then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who had held power in Macedonia since 2006. His VMRO-DPMNE party is still in charge.

The scale of the eavesdropping operation and explosive nature of the audio recordings, published by Zaev in batches during a series of press conferences, shocked the nation.

The public heard voices that appear to be those of top government officials and their associates talking about election rigging, getting kickbacks for lucrative business deals, manipulating the justice system, keeping a tight grip on the media, arresting political adversaries and even covering up the murder of a young man by a police officer.

It was a key moment for Zaev and his party - re-invigorating the opposition that had long been criticised as lethargic and ineffective against the ruling VMRO-DPMNE. Calls for Gruevski’s resignation grew louder.

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