The Skopje Court of Appeal has confirmed the two-year prison sentence handed down to former Macedonian premier Nikola Gruevski for corruption, upholding the original ruling issued in May. The ex-prime minister can still appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court, but still risks ending up in jail before his case is heard.
In May Gruevski was found guilty of of illegally soliciting the secret purchase of a 580,000-euro Mercedes from former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska, which he planned to use for his own purposes.
Gruevski called the process an act of political persecution by his opponents, the SDSM Social Democratic Party now in government. The case of the Mercedes, however, is not the only taint of corruption hanging over Gruevski, who is involved in four other court cases. These cases stem from a probe by the special prosecutor into Gruevski’s government, which was accused of having built a system of espionage that involved tapping the phones of more than 20,000 Macedonian citizens.
The confirmation of the sentence of two years in prison for the strong man of Macedonia comes at a particularly delicate period for the country. The government of Zoran Zaev, formed after the 2016 elections, was severely weakened by the failure to reach the quorum in the referendum on the agreement on country’s new name that was reached with Greece. Gruevski’s party, which boycotted the vote, is now hoping to stop the Social Democrats’ attempt to get the agreement passed in parliament. If this attempt by Zaev were to fail, it would open the way for early elections, in which VMRO aims to return to the government.
However, given the latest court ruling against Gruevski, it is unlikely that he will return to lead the government.