SDSM President Zoran Zaev released two rounds of phone-tapped conversations presenting clear evidence that the ruling party (VMRO-DPMNE) has orchestrated massive electoral fraud during past elections by using fictive voters, fake ID cards, various forms of pressure on individuals and private companies and widespread abuse of police, institutions and administrative resources.
1. Fictive voters, multiple voting and fake IDs
Conversations between the Prime Minister, the Interior and Transport Ministers and the Secretary General of the Government confirm opposition claims made during the past elections - that VMRO DPMNE bused in citizens from the Prespa region of neighbouring Albania, issued them ID cards and placed them temporarily at addresses in Macedonia until election day, when escorts took them to the polls to vote for the ruling party.
In the released conversations, the Interior Minister voices concern about one “risky” detail: these foreign nationals issued with IDs had been placed at few addresses, which might be easily spotted. “There is one risky thing which we knew, and that’s why we told the [local VMRO party] committees to give us more addresses,” she says.
“You know we have 50 people in a flat of 40 square meters. But it is what it is," she tells her interlocutor. “You know, when we were at the Prime Minister's, I insisted that the committees give more addresses, which they didn't do,” she adds.
Several conversations confirm that additional IDs are being printed for the governing party by certain individuals, while the Transport Minister reveals that the “import of voters” included citizens from Gazi Baba, Kavadarci and Sveti Nikole voting in other municipalities. “The Pustec (i.e Prespa) voters are not the only ones that are problematic. It is also those from Kavadarci, Gazi Baba and somewhere else” – he says to the deputy Justice Minister, mentioning that additions in the voters’ list have been made in 34 of the polling stations in one municipality.
“Kire, these people who are in Gazi Baba from [the town of] Sveti Nikole, are they [registered] at one address or at several?” he asks in another conversation. “No, they have been dispersed,” the Government Secretary General replies, to which Janakieski asks whether it is true that “about 15 of them reside at one address”.
The same officials, complaining that the operation has been conducted clumsily, confirm that same voters have been given the right to vote several times in different municipalities.
The manipulation with the voter list and ID issuance was conducted by the Interior Ministry. In another conversation, a female voice reports to Minister Jankuloska about the overcrowded addresses where some of the people given fake IDs are temporarily residing. The two appear to arrange the checkups demanded by election observers, but using “our policemen”, so that no fraud is detected.
“They have reported 42 [voters] in one house, 44 in another one, in villages with 40 voters altogether. One house has 44, at some places there are 19, at some 22, at some 42... We are worried that this could leak to the media,” the voice tells the Interior Minister. “We are under observation and I fear they could engage the OSCE,” the same voice tells Jankuloska.
Jankuloska advises caution: “With every passing day, the pressure is getting bigger… We cannot have 40 people in a village of five voters... Let’s try to have more [such voters] but do it cautiously.”
She also reveals that the Prime Minister had been notified of the issue, a hint confirmed by a subsequent conversation between Gruevski and Minister of Transport Janakievski when the Prime Minister concludes a certain electoral result might have been turned in their favor should they have had the “Prespans”.
Tapes also concern conversations about using dead voters' names for voting, as well as confessions by the Interior and Finance Ministers that what the party is doing "is not right".
2. Voter intimidation (especially of socially vulnerable groups) and vote-buying
Government ministers targeted socially vulnerable and deprived voters with political blackmail on Election Day. Minister of Transport Janakieski arranged social transfers and farming subsidies to individuals in return for their votes. He is informed by civil servants that all applications for farming subsidies have been positively assessed and that upon notification “all farmers vowed to vote (for the party)”.
The Interior Minister is caught organizing vote-buying schemes for families on social welfare and collection of IDs from Roma citizens prior to Election day, while the Transport Minister arranges in-kind flower packages to socially marginalized voters on Election day.
The same Minister confirms preventing elderly people from voting on Election day by instructing people from the power grid operator to cut the power to tall buildings so that their elevators do not work.
Opposition activities have been systematically obstructed, both during the election campaign and on Election day. The Transport Minister has managed to turn off SDSM HQ telephone number on Election day through Telecom officials (where the Government is still a significant minority shareholder).
In another conversation, the Interior Minister confirms her routine practice to send the police to stop buses with opposition members attending rallies in order to reduce their numbers. “Every time they have a rally we send their buses for technical checkups… We do this to all of them but especially to SDSM.”
Jankuloska also makes a racist-sounding remark about the Roma voters the party intends to “drag” them to vote. “In places where the result is tight, do not sign the electoral reports so that we can file complaints afterwards. Afterward, we will drag one gypsy after another by their ears and take them out to vote,” she says.
3. Abuse of administrative resources
“We are all at work, the electoral quarters are here. I mean, we have two electoral quarters in the building (in the Ministry of Interior, n.a.) – one on my floor, VMRO’s local committee for Centar, while the other is downstairs in the hall, where the ambassadors come… So I barge in from time to time, to show them everything is ok. Then I come upstairs on my floor and we do party stuff. That’s how organized we are,” Jankulovska confides with VMRO-DPMNE General Secretary Bozinovski. “We have the call center in MOI”, she gloats with an unknown collocutor later, and even calls MOI, VMRO-MVRO (MVR is the abbreviation for MOI in Macedonian, n.a.).
This is not an exception: the same system is confirmed in the Ministry of Transport.
The conversations between the Transport Minister and Government Secretary General confirm that the plane transport organized for VMRO-DPMNE supporters from the diaspora has been paid (150.000 euro) by the construction company “Beton” that has received government contracts for the controversial “Skopje 2014” project in the record amount of 250 million euro. Needless to say, that expense and donation have never been registered in VMRO-DPMNE financial election reports.
In another conversation Martin Protugjer, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, issues a blood-curdling threats about the then head of the Football Federation of Macedonia, who has not helped their party in the election by issuing free tickets for a football match. “If he does not give them [the tickets] by Monday, tell him that he and his wife and his children will end up in a ditch somewhere,” Protugjer says.
4. Impunity and the misuse of the police
Several conversations confirm that most “problematic” police officers (“plain tugs” – according to the Interior Minister) were dispatched to Ohrid, on a special mission to ensure the governing party’s local victory. They have been hand-picked and led by Martin Protugjer, the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
After an incident in which an opposition supporter has been attacked and badly injured, the MOI internal control was asked to intervene. In one of the conversations, the Interior Minister instructs subordinates to “clean them up”.
In another campaign incident, the Parliament Speaker asks that the Interior Minister releases their supporters from detention. She accepts.
The police has been used for direct and blatant voter intimidation. Transport Minister urges an unidentified associate to press for higher voter turnout and even use the Police if necessary.
Several conversations show the Transport Minister Janakieski plotting to steal sealed electoral material between two rounds of the elections. Part of it has been stolen (on their behalf) by one of the members of the election administration, while the Minister has asked the secret police chief to ensure the rest. The Minister also receives orders from Gruevski how to invalidate the elections in the Center municipality by invalidating ballot papers.
5. Strong pressure exerted over public servants
Allegations for intimidation of public administration employees were also confirmed in both disclosures. In a number of conversations leaked, Minister of Transport Janakieski either arranges or is informed of the pressures exerted over public servants to vote for the party.
Professional soldiers, police officers, civil servants, teachers… are being threatened with a job loss in case they don’t vote for the governing party and vouch for the vote of a certain number (in some cases 5, in other 20) of their relatives or friends.
Transport Minister was heard discussing with Prime Minister’s cousin (high custom’s official) how to put pressure on people in public institutions to vote for the ruling party - and get them to procure lists of 20 or more guaranteed voters for the party. "We must work in the institutions," the official says, to which Janakieski replies that he had already done so in all bigger public enterprises.
Both Finance and Transport Ministers issue direct threats to civil servants who have failed to provide the governing party with the list of “guaranteed voters”.
“If I find one employee or member that has not provided us with a list, you’ll be sacked also. Tell this to Elena, as well” – this is the message of the Transport Minister to a civil servant in another institution. “Zhane should have also given the list of people that would vote for VMRO, the whole ministry did, but she did not… I will sack her” – he adds in another conversation.
Interior Minister’s voice is heard arranging revenge on a certain person involved in the elections. "The minute he makes a mistake he will be fired," Jankuloska says. Her interlocutor adds: "We should sack his wife and burn his restaurant".
City of Skopje Municipal Council Chairwoman Irena Miseva informs the Transport Minister that they have “under control” all the institutions in the capital. There, opposition supporters are warned: “I told them, if we win I’ll have you clean and swipe the streets, with the Gypsies,” as confirmed by an interlocutor of the Transport Minister.
6. Harassing private companies
Private companies have also been targeted. In the released conversations, government ministers and officials advice each other to withdraw permits of certain taxi companies and to issue fines to private firms that are seen supportive of the opposition. “Out of the 24 listed, 8 were issued 4,800 EUR penalties, 2 were closed down,” Trajkovski (IRS Chief) boasts
In a conversation between the Transport Minister and T Mobile (DeutcheTelecom is the major shareholder) Director, the later confirms that his employees were told to vote for the governing party or risk being announced redundant latter.
A Croatian private investor is bullied by the Finance Minister for, in their view, siding with the opposition. Ten different inspections were sent to the company. In one of the leaked conversations the Transport Minister confirms their partisan intentions and stresses: “Tell him, if he cooperates with us by the 5th of June (Election day n.a), we’ll respect that. If not, we’ll win again and we’ll take that into consideration. Tell him that.”
7. interference in the work of the election administration and the complaints procedure
Gruevski and his associates interfered even in the work of the State Electoral Commission.