By Semra Musai
Macedonia’s junior ruling party demanded an investigation into a leak of wiretapped conversations between its senior members, which some claim may be intended to blackmail the party ahead of December’s polls.
The wiretapped telephone conversations, allegedly containing the voices of Ali Ahmeti, the head of the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, and some of his associates, were published by an anonymous source on a Facebook page called Pronto MK.
What are alleged to be the voices of former vice Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi and DUI MP Ermira Mehmeti can also be heard in the recordings.
The same Facebook page, which was originally launched in neighbouring Kosovo in August, also published images of dozens of alleged audio files, hinting it will publish more materials in the future.
“This proves that the system does not function. The Special Prosecution, the public prosecution, the interior ministry and the Directorate for Personal Data Protection are not doing their job,” an unnamed source from the DUI was quoted as saying by the Dnevnik daily on Tuesday.
“These institutions should discover who is revealing the illegally wiretapped materials and arrest those people, and also delete those conversations from social networks,” the source said.
The new wiretaps have caused DUI’s senior partners in the government, the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, and the main opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, to exchange barbs, blaming each other for being the source of the material.
The SDSM insists that the wiretaps were secretly released by the VMRO DPMNE party in order to force its partners to stay in the ruling coalition ahead of the December 11 early elections.
“Those who ordered the wiretapping in Macedonia, [VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola] Gruevski, and [former secret police chief Saso] Mijalkov and their associates are using the materials to threaten and blackmail. The message they are now obviously sending to DUI is evident,” SDSM spokesperson Petre Silegov told media.
Former MP and political analyst Ismet Ramadani also said he believed the VMRO DPMNE was responsible.
“There is a chance that private conversations are in the hands of the VMRO DPMNE’s exponents in order to blackmail the DUI at given moments,” Ramadani told BIRN.
“Now they are using the moment to reveal these conversations in order to prrevent any group of members of the DUI from influencing the leadership of the party to leave the coalition with the VMRO DPMNE and eventually approaching the SDSM,” he added.
The VMRO DPMNE insisted however that the SDSM was to blame, and that the opposition was not telling the truth when at the start of this year it said it handed all the wiretapping materials to the newly-formed Special Prosecution, which is tasked with investigating the high-level crimes allegedly revealed by the wiretaps.
In February 2015, the opposition started releasing batches of covertly recorded tapes, which it said showed that the VMRO DPMNE-led government had been behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers. It also said the tapes proved many criminal allegations against government members, including election rigging.
Gruevski, who was Prime Minister from 2006 until he resigned earlier this year under the EU-brokered deal, has said the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.
As part of the effort to end the deep political crisis, an EU-brokered agreement was signed last year by the four leading parties.
The agreement envisaged the establishment of the Special Prosecution to probe the alleged wrongdoings revealed by the tapes, as well as laying out a set of reforms to be implemented ahead of early elections.
In return, the SDSM agreed to hand over all the tapes to the Special Prosecution.
This is not the first time that the DUI party has been jolted by the leak of private conversations between its officials.
In April this year, private conversations between former vice Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi and MP Ermira Mehmeti were also ublished on social media.
After the April leaks, Ahmeti replaced all the DUI’s ministers in the government with new ones, but he insisted this was done in order to refresh the party, and not because the ministers were discredited by the revelations.
DUI MP Ermira Mehmeti said at the time that she had been a victim of an attempt to discredit her and that the materials released had been “edited” for that purpose.
Mehmeti said that the person heard on the tapes was not her but someone else with a similar voice.
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