Businesspersons running for office in the forthcoming local elections

 

 

Numerous businesspersons, or persons whose immediate families do a certain business, will partake in the upcoming local elections. Some of them have been part of the political life and public sphere whereas for others this is their first, so to speak, political experience and attempt to take public office

 

Author: Vlatko Stojanovski

 

The involvement of businesspersons in the party and political life can be viewed from multiple aspects. On the one hand, if it’s a matter of successful businesspersons, their candidacy may bring them political profit, especially when it comes to local elections when small number of votes make a large difference. Apart from the fact that their employees are their potential voters, their successfulness as employers sends a good message to all other citizens, whose priorities, incorporate the local economic development, according to all relevant researches on public opinion.

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However, the relationship politics/power, on the one, and business/company on the other hand, can be observed from a different angle. Namely, when businesspersons take public office, they can (ab)use the office for the benefit of their companies, or companies of their close relatives. They don’t have to do so inadmissibly or directly, there are countless creative ways how to, with the help of the office they exercise and power deriving thereof, support or at least protect their business, without violating any laws.

Companies of several incumbent mayors and candidates for mayors have won tenders put out by state bodies and institutions, headed by their fellow partisans, which is a sheer example of conflict of interests in broad sense. Further, some of them have obtained national concessions in times when their party has been in charge of the executive power, i.e. they have had access to business development resources.

Every time when a person owns companies and holds public office, the possible conflict of public and private interests comes into question. Can the private interest of a functionary affect the performance of their public authorizations and duties? Or, in other words, jeopardize the public interest? Can the functionary abuse the office to provide more favorable market position to his/her business?

 

MAYOR WINS TENDERS PUT OUT BY MUNICIPALITIES HEADED BY HIS FELLOW PARTISANS

During these elections, Kochani may be the only municipality where two successful businessmen will run for the mayor’s office. One is VMRO-DPMNE’s incumbent mayor, Ratko Dimitrovski, whose second term is about to end and he’s asking for a third. He owns the Evropa 92 print house, founded back in 1990, whose current director is Vlatko Dimitrovski.

In the asset declaration delivered to the Anti-corruption Commission, Ratko Dimitrovski has stated that his ownership holdings are in the amount of 22 million denars or approximately 358 thousand euros, acquired in 1990, when Evropa 92 was founded. However, he has also declared that in 2008, at the end of his first term as a mayor, he acquired ownership holdings in the amount of 300 thousand denars (slightly below 5 thousand euros) in another company.

The data of the Public Procurement Bureau show that only for the period 2013-2017, during Dimitrovski’s second term in office, Evropa 92 has concluded public procurement contracts worth more than 700.000 euros. In addition to this, the company has cooperated with many state institutions and municipalities headed by fellow partisans of Kochani’s mayor, Ohrid, Aerodrom, the City of Skopje among them… What’s more, the company has concluded a public procurement contract with the Community of Local Self-Government Units, whose member is Dimitrovski upon duty entailed by office.

His counter candidate is Nikolcho Iliev, owner of INT Trejd textile company, nominated by SDSM as nonparty candidate. Unlike Evropa 92, INT Trejd, which recently positioned itself among the 200 most successful companies, hasn’t won a single tender.

 

CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR AND STATE CONCESSIONAIRE

Dimitrovski is not the only powerful businessman and candidate of VMRO-DPMNE who’s been mayor twice and who’s asking for third consecutive term. Such is the case of the mayor of Kriva Palanka, Arsencho Aleksovski, whose brother in law (his sister’s husband) Mitko Tolev, is VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate for mayor of Ohrid. Aleksovski owns a forwarder, Transhped Trejd, and according to his asset declaration, he and his family own holdings in other companies as well.

Still, in the run up to the local elections, the figure that attracted the most attention is Mitko Janchev, VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate for mayor of Kavadarci. He is the co-owner (other co-owner is Janinka Chuparkoska) and director of the mineral water and beverages company Kozhuvchanka, founded in 1995 in Kavadarci.

According to data of the Central Registry, this company has several branch offices brewing beer, trading food, and even providing foodservice, seeing that this company recently opened the Centar Bar brewery in Skopje, at the same premises occupied previously by McDonalds. As Kozhuvchanka says, the offering will include fresh beer brewed with the technology of the German company Sinalco, whose sodas are distributed in Macedonia by Kozhuvchanka.

Besides winning tenders put out by numerous state institutions, Kozhuvchanka has been awarded with three concessions. According to the awarded concessions registry, drawn up by the Ministry of Economy, the first one from 2007 is for exploiting mineral water, the second from 2010 is for underground water and the third from 2012 is for thermal and mineral water. Point being, Kozhuvchanka obtained these concessions in times when Nikola Gruevski, leader of the party nominating Kozhuvchanka’s co-owner for mayor, held the PM’s office.

 

BUSINESS OF THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY

The public more or less knows that all of the aforementioned persons have been doing or are doing business, but not many people know that VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate for mayor’s office in Kisela Voda, Johan Tarchulovski, besides being active politician, has been an active businessman too. In this regard, he owns the company Mel-Kom Trans, whose director is his wife, Sonja Tarchulovska. This company was founded in 2008, when Tarchulovski was serving his time in the prison in Scheveningen.

According to some media outlets, this company transports cargo and cooperates with the Sasa mine in Makedonska Kamenica. Albeit the mine is private, it’s worth mentioning that Tarchulovski is a good friend with this town’s mayor, Darko Mitevski, who’s a member of VMRO-DPMNE and candidate for mayor of Makedonska Kamenica nominated by this party.

Tarchulovski’s opponent in Kisela Voda, nominated by SDSM, is Filip Temelkovski, son of Zore Temelkovski, well-known businessman and former deputy from the ranks of the social democrats. Additionally, Temelkovski currently presides over the Macedonian-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and owns the fruit syrup and tea production company Ino Spektar, founded back in 1990.

Moreover, SDSM has nominated several more candidates for mayors whose families do business. One of them is Blagoj Bochvarski, candidate for mayor of Shtip, whose family owns the construction company Pelagonija-Shtip. That’s why VMRO-DPMNE accuses Bochvarski of having lucrative motives in the race for mayor’s office i.e. wanting to make his family’s company a business empire.

 

MAYOR AND PARTY CASHIER

Plenty of current and former businesspersons are among the candidates for mayors nominated by DUI. The brothers of the incumbent mayor of Gostivar, Nevzat Bejta – Xhevad and Gjilgjiz Bejta own a company and a mall in Gostivar named De Jure. After VMRO-DPMNE accused Bejta of using his office to satisfy his business interests, Bejta clarified that he had been doing business before he entered into politics, which became dormant after he became politician.

The mayor of Zhelino and candidate for new term, Fatmir Izairi, owns a private health office. He’s the owner of the Florens hospital, whilst his wife owns a pharmacy. Izairi was the head DUI’s electoral headquarters’ finance department during the previous elections when two companies (Golec-Trans and Besha-Trans) donated 40.000 euro illegally (at the moment of donation, these two companies had been performing public service won at a tender), thus the party had to return the money back.

DUI’s mayor of Plasnica, Ismail Jahoski, is also doing business. He used to own Pucko Petrol, an oil company now owned by his son Asmir Jahoski. This company recently got on the list of top 10 companies that have concluded public procurement contracts with state bodies, including institutions and municipalities headed by his fellow partisans. Prior the elections in 2014, DPA announced that will press charges at the Public Prosecutor Office against Jahoski.

Plenty of other incumbent mayors and candidates for the mayor’s office are businesspersons or their families own companies. Pursuant to the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interests, after taking public office, the functionaries must yield the company’s management to other persons (whom they trust). However, they are not obligated to give up on their ownership, meaning they retain control over the company, regardless if it performs activities directly or indirectly linked to competences deriving from the office they hold.

 


This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.

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