Following the meeting between Zoran Zaev and Hristijan Mickoski, the VMRO-DPMNE leader said that he demanded guarantees from the Government that the coming presidential elections will be free and fair. Mickoski said that VMRO will not accept electoral fraud of the kind that was going on during the September 2018 referendum.

 There are needless job openings in the public sector, public transfers toward target groups of voters which are asked to support the ruling coalition nominee, we saw how electoral stations reported that voters voted in record breaking times of 2.4 seconds each and had turnouts of 95 percent. We pointed to these stations which had irregularities during the referendum. Whether Macedonia will receive the recommendation to open EU accession talks will depend on the conduct of the elections. Besides, there is a first round of voting, but also a second round, and much will depend on how the Government organizes the elections, Mickoski said, stopping just short of threatening that VMRO will boycott the second round of voting if mass irregularities happen during the first round.

Zaev refused to hold early general elections along with the presidential vote which would’ve meant greater guarantees of fair conduct, including having opposition officials lead some of the most easily abused Government departments. During the meeting held in the Government building this evening, and given the climate of political persecution of critical voices in the country, Mickoski asked that the opposition is allowed to appoint the Public Prosecutor, as a move which would reduce the high level of politically motivated arrests. Zaev said that he refused this request, even though it is part of the platform of his SDSM party, because he considers VMRO-DPMNE not suitable as an opposition party to appoint the Public Prosecutor.

Still, Zaev asked VMRO for support in another process which will affect the EU decision this summer – the transformation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office into a permanent institution.

Mickoski said that the current special prosecutor Katica Janeva, who is widely seen as loyalist of Zaev’s SDSM party, lost all credibility to run the institution. According to Mickoski, VMRO could support making the SPO office permanent, but under a different team. Mickoski also pointed out that he received the text of the draft law last Thursday, and the party had no time to analyze it. One of the opposition requests is to use this department to investigate other major corruption cases, not just the narrow time frame which Zoran Zaev set in 2015. Mickoski named the dubious privatization of the state owned ESM energy company, the Deutche Telekom purchase of the Macedonian Telekom and other cases related to SDSM or parties now close to SDSM.

You are welcome to investigate me and the property of my family, provided that afterwards we investigate Zaev, Mickoski said.

Zaev responded that he trusts Katica Janeva and her team, and will support them remaining in place.