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New Tapes Highlight Chicanery in Macedonian Local Poll

The mayor of the Skopje municipality of Centar, Andrej Zernovski, published 11 recorded conversations on Thursday, which he said show what the ruling party was prepared to do to win the local election in his key city-centre municipality.
Zernovski published 11 recorded conversations

Top officials from Macedonia’s ruling VMRO-DPMNE party did every unlawful activity they could think of in order to win the local election in 2013 in the municipality of Centar in Skopje, the mayor of the municipality, Andrej Zernovski, claimed on Thursday.

Zernovski published 11 recorded conversations in which he claims Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his ministers can be heard talking about using phantom voters from a small town in Albania called Pustec – as well as about plans to bribe members of the City Council, to cancel the vote and put pressure on officials.

People will see “why Prime Minister Gruevski and secret police chief Saso Mijalkov thought it very important to win in the municipality of Centar above all else because of the criminal activities in the Skopje 2014 project,” he added.

He said that Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska invented many reasons not to accept his invitation to talk about the election lists and obvious manipulations.

In one bloc of recorded conversations, a voice attributed to Transport Minister Mile Janakieski laughs about the elevators being shut down in tower blocks in the municipality so that elderly people cannot go to vote.

In another conversation with the secret service chief Mijalkov, the same minister says that after realizing that the people in those buildings could make all the difference in the election, he was thinking of relocating the buildings.

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, published the first batch of wiretapped conversations on February 9.

“I don’t know if there’s a need for more evidence of electoral manipulation. Obviously this is a model that was functioning in all parts of the state. Gruevski no longer has any legitimacy to lead the country,” Zernovski said.

He called for the resignation of the public prosecutor, Marko Zvrlevski, of the management of Macedonian Radio and Television, and for the formation of an interim government.

“The pressure was worst in municipalities where the opposition had more of a chance to win,” the mayor noted.

The leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Zoran Zaev, published the first batch of wiretapped conversations on February 9.

He claimed the government had put more than 20,000 people in the country of 2 million under surveillance and it had all been orchestrated by Gruevski and Mijalkov.

Gruevski has denied the allegations, insisting that the opposition obtained the material from unnamed “foreign secret services”.

Gruevski and other ministers have refused to comment on the actual content of the tapes but have said the tapes were cut, edited and manipulated.