Macedonia: Special Prosecutor Accuses Top Officials of Election Fraud

Macedonia's Special Prosecutor's Office has accused a number of high-ranking officials and two former ministers of trying to rig the 2013 local elections.

Katica Janeva (left) and Fatima Fetai, Photo: The Special Prosecutor’s Office, headed by Katica Janeva, was established to investigate allegations made in a series of tape recordings a Macedonian opposition party has been releasing since early 2015.

Fatima Fetai, a deputy in the Special Prosecutor's Office, said at a news conference Friday that the individuals are accused of violating the election law, bribery, destroying electoral material and misuse of funds during election campaigns.

Among others, the accusations name General Secretary of the Government Kiril Bozinovski as well as ex-Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska and ex-Transport and Communications Minister Mile Janakieski, who both resigned in May 2015 following calls for their resignation by anti-government protesters as the Macedonian political crisis was unfolding.

All three were prominent members of the government of Nikola Gruevski, former Prime Minister and leader of the VMRO-DPMNE political party, who stepped down in January as part of a European Union-brokered deal among the main political parties in Macedonia. The deal also includes snap elections to take place this  April.

Also under investigation in the case are five judges and four members of the State Election Commission who were active during the 2013 elections.

Balkan Insight quotes Fetai saying their motive was to "maintain the [their ruling] party in power," and "direct privileges for themselves".

The Special Prosecutor's Office had requested the detention of eight unnamed suspects in connection with the case, which the Basic Court in Skopje rejected. The Special Prosecutor appealed, and is awaiting a decision.

Since it was established, Janeva's office says it has endured repeated media attacks. These concerns are reflected in a US Embassy statement, originally released by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which reads, "Statements from one political party, VMRO-DPMNE, and its leaders attacking the work of the Special Prosecutor are another source of concern."

At the end of January, it was also hit with criminal charges by the Basic Public Prosecutor's Office in Skopje. The accusations state that some of Janeva's deputies have been coercing police employees to testify with promises of lighter sentences, telling them to "save their own skins." Janeva's office has denied the allegations, and says it will be "initiating appropriate civil proceedings for defamation and insult, as well as criminal proceedings for false reporting of a crime."

Janeva's office is looking into electoral fraud allegations contained in tape recordings released by Zoran Zaev, leader of the largest opposition party in Macedonia, the SDSM. The tapes are allegedly the result of Gruevski ordering the illegal wiretapping of more than 20,000 Macedonian citizens, including members of his own cabinet.