By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
An investigation by journalists raises suspicions of a large scale government scheme to bully civil servants into providing votes for the ruling party at the forthcoming June 5 early elections.
The national A1 TV on Sunday aired audio recordings of telephone conversations that they say prove the ruling VMRO DPMNE party plot.
The ruling party has denied the allegations.
The TV station, which is considered to be criticial of the government, claims that public administration employees were forced to provide lists of voters who would cast their ballot for the ruling party, in exchange for keeping their post or a promise of employment for their relatives or close associates.
Managers had to provide 30 names while other employees had to name 15, A1 TV alleges.
A1 says it is in possession of some of the lists provided by the civil servants, which include names, telephone numbers and the electoral district where the voters are registered.
Posing falsely as surveyors from a VMRO DPMNE call centre who wanted to check whether the listed people were indeed planning to vote for the party, A1 journalists called several civil servants who allegedly submitted names of voters the party could rely on.
The TV station aired some of the conversations in their news bulletin.
“We have a problem with the list you submitted. Two of the people [on the list] said they do not plan to vote [for VMRO DPMNE],” the journalist tells the public administration worker.
“How can they not now? I am trying to arrange a job for them here at the fund. I will call them, what else can I say,” replies the man, who says he works in the state health fund.
The man continues, explaining to the caller that in exchange for one woman’s vote, he is helping her access in vitro fertilization.
“If need be, I can double the list,” the man insists, arguing he had already filled the quota of 30 people.
“Can you guarantee that these people will vote for us?” the journalists ask another employee in the health fund.
A woman replies that she can vouch “1000 percent” that all 15 people she has listed will vote for the party. She says that her superior at work gave her the list.
“This was for my daughter’s employment,” another woman explains, adding: “She works in a school.”
The people contacted by the A1 journalists said that they were instructed to submit the lists one month ago.
In its press statement, VMRO DPMNE called the aired recording an “outrageous montage” that aims to discredit them. The party said A1 worked in support of the opposition Social Democrats.
“These are documents that were forged in the Social Democrats headquarters and presented via their coalition partner- A1,” the press statement reads.
The TV says that it has plenty of other audio and video evidence to prove the scheme and that it will submit all of its findings to the State Election Commission and to the election monitors.
The spokesperson for the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring mission in Skopje, Egor Tilpunov, told Balkan Insight that they will “wait and see what the State Electoral Commission says or does about it” and that they will file all their remarks in the report after the elections.
We are going to underline there all issues that we consider to be important,” Tilpunov said.
The organisation MOST, which provides most of the local election monitors, expressed concern about the allegations in a letter to Balkan Insight. “Regardless of whether they are true or false, they can seriously harm the election process,” read the letter sent by MOST spokesperson Teodora Popovska.
The NGO said that it had not yet received the data that A1 said it would send to them, but urged the State Electoral Commission to “undertake measures in accordance with its responsibilities and the electoral code”.
So far the Commission, which is tasked with conducting the elections, has been silent about the affair.
The problem of the politization and pressure on public office workers was mentioned in reports by domestic and foreign monitors in the 2008 early elections as well as after the 2009 local and presidential polls.