Macedonia: The Exit Strategy of a Failing Government

News of resignations come in. At first, the dinner party doesn’t believe it. We laugh it off. More and more people see the same news being shared on social media. And then the most trustworthy internet portal says it’s true. Kurir, the government mouthpiece, announces the resignations of Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska, Minister of Transportation Mile Janakieski, and the Director of the Secret Police and Prime Minister’s cousin, Sasho Mijalkov.

Don’t celebrate just yet.

One of the requests of the opposition SDUM is the appointment of a new, impartial public prosecutor, along with a transitional government. The rationale for this is simple: As soon as the government resigns, they might try to flee the country in an attempt to avoid lawsuits filed by the new public prosecutor. And the grounds for such lawsuits are numerous.

Recorded conversations publicized by the opposition reveal that Gordana Jankulovska has led the misuse of both the Ministry of the Interior and police in several ways. First, she appears to have coordinated the mobilization of fake voters from Pustec, Albania, as well as from Macedonia to vote in the same election twice in critical polling stations. This was made possible through the printing of new IDs and passports in the place of citizens who are known to be non-voters, who have lived outside of the country for longer periods of time, or are deceased. Second, she has used the police to influence electoral results in various ways, from intimidating activists from the opposition in electoral campaigns, to bribing citizens willing to vote for VMRO-DPMNE for money. Third, she has arranged for the employment of party activists in all state institutions, including the judiciary. Together with Mijalkov, she has appointed party-convenient individuals to key posts in the courts, public prosecutor’s office, public enterprises and government ministries and agencies. In the recorded conversations, she is referred to multiple times as the holder of a “list” which contains all of the recommendations for potential candidates for all vacant positions. Fourth, she has covered Mijalkov’s purchasing of wiretapping equipment from Israel, and even got into a fight with the Minister of Finance when she refused to cut the budget line for the equipment in a time of public funding cuts. Fifth, she lost control over the chain of command of the police when the head of the PM’s security detail gave a verbal order to a member of the special forces to leave Kumanovo and come to Skopje. Later on that night, the same policeman killed 21-year old Martin Neshkoski, triggering a wave of protests.

Mile Janakieski, as the minister of transport, has been heavily involved in numerous wrongdoings, and is one of the PM’s most frequent interlocutors in the conversations publicized by the opposition. First, he coordinated the demolition of the Kosmos business center owned by businessman Fijat Canoski, who was deemed politically unacceptable due to his son’s relationship with the daughter of the owner of the main opposition TV station, A1. In conversations with Janakieski, Gruevski passes on advice given by the former EU Delegation’s Head Sorensen to demolish a couple of more buildings to hide the fact that the demolition of Kosmos was politically motivated. Second, he changed and redrew state infrastructure plans to allow Gruevski to buy land in attractive locations for a very low price, and to sell it later on. Some of these locations include Vodno, a hill above Skopje, which has seen a rise in construction in the past years — prompting experts to warn of potential landsides. Third, he has participated in the coordination of blackmail and inspections of businesses associated with the opposition. Fourth, he has made travel arrangements for double voters, from both inside and outside of Macedonia.

And last but not least, the crown jewel of sickening blackmail and ruthless destruction of political opponents is Sasho Mijalkov himself. As the cousin of Nikola Gruevski, he has enjoyed unprecedented access and liberty to direct and control state institutions. Even though as head of the secret police, Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska is his supervisor, in almost all of the publicized conversations, Mijalkov gives orders to Jankulovska. First, he has taken a bribe from Israel to buy the wiretapping equipment. Second, he has personally orchestrated the set up of opposition politician Ljube Boskovski, who was arrested for illegal campaign funding in 2011. On the day of the arrest, Mijalkov could even be heard speculating about the exact number of years Boskovski would be sentenced to later in the year, demonstrating control over the judges who presided over Boskovski’s case. Third, he has exercised control over the judiciary, partly through ensuring the employment of obedient party activists, and partly through intimidation. Fourth, he has engaged in the tampering of electoral materials.

And now, all government-controlled media is proclaiming the newfound morality of these individuals, stating that they have resigned from their positions for the sake of peace in the country. Please. Spare me the bad acting.

This is nothing more than an attempt at an exit strategy of a failing government, assuming they haven’t lost their sanity to such an extent that they believe they can actually stay in power. By offering these resignations, the PM might hope for more time to plan for ways to save the capital acquired and people involved in the regime.  Additionally, the first steps would be to start shipping key individuals associated with most of his crimes out of the country. Jankulovska, Janakieski and Mijalkov all seem like an excellent choice.

As much as I am looking forward to Gruevski’s dance of the dying swan, I also demand that more key actors be held responsible. Justice must be served, and none of these individuals should be spared from facing a fair judicial process conducted by an impartial and professional judiciary.

In the meantime, my father has moved the bottle of Italian wine next to the TV, between the family portrait and the little Macedonian flag we keep at home. When the whole government resigns, then we’ll celebrate. Then we’ll open the wine bottle.


Cover photo credit:

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Ivana Jordanovska

Ivana is a graduate of the Institute for Political Science of Paris, with a focus on transatlantic relations. She is also a member of the Executive Board of the Young European Federalists (JEF Europe), and believes justice is more important than ethnic belonging.