Marko Djurica / Reuters A protester holds up a sign reading "resign" during an anti-government demonstration in Skopje, Macedonia, May 17, 2015.

Tug of War in Macedonia

Will Skopje's Wiretap Scandal Drive It Closer to Russia?

Macedonia is embroiled in a deep political crisis. Since February of this year, over 500 wiretapped recordings of alleged conversations of various officials, including the sitting Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and some of his cabinet members, have been released in 36 installments by Zoran Zaev, the leader of the main opposition party, who is claiming that he obtained them from a whistleblower within Macedonia’s secret police. The recordings include more than half a million conversations that took place between 2007 and 2013. If authentic, these information “bombs,” as Zaev calls them, portray shocking abuse by the ruling party in Macedonia.

For starters, they reveal control, or attempts to control, the judiciary and other branches of the government by the prime minister’s close circle. In one conversation, Filimena Manevska (wife of former justice minister Mihajlo Manevski) and Vlatko Mijalkov (cousin of the prime minister) discuss whether Ljupka Arsenievska, the president of the court of appeals is “theirs,” and can be relied on for some unspecified case. Manevska says, “She is fully ours…Go to her without hesitation. Tell her, Filimena sends me. No problem.” In another recording, Gordana Jankulovska (Minister of Internal Affairs) tells Martin Protuger (Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff) that “We can’t pay salaries to those [employed] in the institutions who were giving us a hard time during the campaign…We need a thorough analysis, to clean [the institutions] before the new government takes office.” Protuger goes on to agree, “…they need to be taught a lesson...they need to be expelled.”

The wiretaps also suggest serious voter fraud. In one conversation about creating false registrations, an unidentified speaker advises the minister of internal affairs, “We have to be careful because we are under observation…and I fear that OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] would be activated again, would start barking…” Jankulovska says in response, “I mean, you can’t have 40 new people in a village with a population of five.”

Ognen Teofilovski / ReutersMacedonian Prime Minister Nikola

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