Macedonian President withdraws all pardons in wiretapping scandal

Tue 7 Jun 2016

Macedonian President withdraws all pardons in wiretapping scandal

On June 6th president Gjorge Ivanov revoked all the 56 pardons of top politicians involved in the wire-tapping scandal. The decision comes 10 days after he withdrew 22 pardons. After Ivanov made the decision to pardon all politicians involved, anti-government protests erupted.

Probe protests
On April 12 President Ivanov pardoned all politicians facing criminal investigations in the wiretapping corruption scandal. Most politicians facing criminal charges from the Special Prosecution were high-ranking government and party representatives of the ruling conservative nationalist VMRO-DPMNE. After this decision, the so-called colourful protests started. The protests demand President Gjorgje Ivanov to step down and postponement of the elections planned for June 5th. The protesters expressed support for the Special Prosecution office (SJO), wore bright coloured t-shirts and threw paint balls at the Skopje Criminal Court.

On May 27th Ivanov took the first step and decided to withdraw 22 of the 56 pardons, but he did not say the exact names. According to statements of the EU and US, this move was not enough effort and urged Ivanov to withdraw all pardons.

Wiretapping scandal
Since the wiretapping recordings were released in February 2015, Macedonia has been in political turmoil. SDSM leader Zaev accused PM Nikola Gruevski (VMRO DPMNE) and the country’s secret police chief of wiretapping more than 20.000 people including journalists, judges, foreign ambassadors and activists. Opposition parties saw the scandal as a sign that free media is still at risk and believe June 5th was too early to achieve free and fair elections. The opposition party SDSM wants no elections at all, until a new media law, which has been stalled in parliament for months, is passed. According to Zaev the media is currently controlled by pro-government press outlets. The opposition is also demanding that the country's electoral lists, which are purported to be out of date and allow for vote rigging by the government, will be reviewed and cleaned up ahead of any new elections. The elections were cancelled on May 18th, but there is no date set yet for new elections.

Przino accord
By pardoning the people involved, Ivanov blocked the work of the Special Prosecution which had been set up to probe high-level corruption as part of the EU-brokered accord. The intention of the agreement was to defuse the long-running political crisis around the wiretapping scandal.

Sources: RFE/RL, Balkaninsight
Photo: Balgurov