Several political officials sentenced to jail over electoral fraud in North Macedonia

menduh thaci saso mijalkov nikola gruevski
Menduh Thaci (center) and Sašo Mijalkov (right) are known for their close links to former Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski (left)

Skopje, North Macedonia | 09 March 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Several high political and state officials known for links to former PM Gruevski, have been sentenced to jail following irregularities and electoral fraud during the 2013 local elections in North Macedonia.

The Penal Court of Skopje sentenced Mr. Menduh Thaçi, chair of the Albanian Democratic Party (PDSH) and former chief of the Macedonian secret service Mr. Sašo Mijalkov to 3 years in prison. Both were known to be close to former PM Nikola Gruevski who is on the run in Hungary over a 2 year prison sentence himself.

The court also sentenced Mr. Bedredin Ibrahimi, Aneta Stefanova and Vlatko Sajkovski, all members of the State Electoral Commission (SEC) and political officials, to three years in prison.

According to recordings obtained by special prosecutors, former secret service boss Sašo Mijalkov had asked PDSH chair Menduh Thaçi to intervene by having Bedredin Ibrahimi, to vote at the SEC in favor of annulling the electoral process in the municipality of Strumica, where current PM Zoran Zaev previously served as Mayor of the town.

Since the election of social democratic Zoran Zaev to the Premiership, North Macedonia has been going under huge changes in cleaning up its act and putting pro-Russian corrupt politicians under arrest.

In November 2018, former PM Nikola Gruevski fled to Budapest after passing through Albania, Montenegro and Serbia following a conviction on corruption charges and a 2-year jail sentence. Reportedly, his friend Viktor Orban arranged for political asylum to be granted to Gruevski, over political persecution pretences in Macedonia.

Last month, Macedonia Police arrested former speaker of parliament Trajko Veljanoski and two former ministers from Gruevski’s government, on charges of violent acts against parliament in 2017, when VMRO-DPMNE party supporters stormed into the parliament building, injuring several MPs and journalists, including former social-democratic opposition leader Zoran Zaev.

Gruevski, known for his pro Russian stance and involvement in high levels of corruption, was replaced in May 2017 by social democratic leader Zoran Zaev, following a period of dirty tapping recordings which brought down the Gruevski Klan from power.

Following the election of Mr. Zaev to the premiership, the small Balkan country has agreed an historic deal with its southern neighbor Greece to change its name to ‘North Macedonia’ and has since signed a membership protocol with NATO, while it expects to formally start membership talks with the European Union later this year.

Last year, EU member states agreed to a European Commission recommendation to open accession talks for Macedonia to join the European Union, a scenario which looks more feasible now following the landmark agreement between Athens and Skopje.

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