With European and local elections dominating the agenda across the region, the media have already stepped up their efforts to expose the misuse of public resources, corruption and manipulation.
For example, to interview Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, whose ten-year term ends in November 2024, the daily Libertatea sent one of its reporters to Cabo Verde, where Iohannis and his entourage, including his wife, had stopped on a tour designed to “put Romania back on the African radar.” After examining one of the president’s rented business jets and researching the presidential travel policies of other European countries, the investigative journalists from Recorder concluded that “Romania turns out to be the only country in the EU where the president travels with private planes and then keeps the costs secret.” During the interview, Iohannis said he would eventually disclose the cost of his trip.
Off-shore businessman saved by mayorship
In Bulgaria, where local elections were held on 29 October, the investigative journalism site Bivol revealed suspicious links between the elected centrist mayor of Varna, Blagomir Kotsev, and some offshore transactions. Bivol’s journalists claim that Kotsev was investigated by prosecutors before being granted the protection of mayoral candidate status. Kotsev was one of the few mayors from the pro-European PP-DB coalition to outperform the ruling GERB in major cities.
Voters disclose Pro-Russia agents during Moldovan elections
Moldova also held local elections on 5 November, with the liberal PAS securing the majority of mayoralties (32.51%). A few days before the elections, however, Moldova’s Commission for Emergency Situations barred the candidates of the “Chance” party from running, accusing the party of being financed with Russian money by fugitive MP Ilan Șor. The investigative newspaper Ziarul de Gardă – which recently accused Ion Chicu, leader of the centrist PDCM, of sexist and hate speech after he called the paper’s reporters “mediatic escorts” belonging to a “mediatic brothel” – conducted impromptu interviews with voters from Orhei, a town that has traditionally voted for the Chance party. Ziarul de Gardă wanted to find out who would get the support of the people by removing their favourite from the race. However, the people of Orhei confessed that they had been manipulated. “It was a gathering, they gave us small papers. We have agents who inform us,” an elderly lady said. The winning candidate in Orhei was Tatiana Cociu, who was supported by the leader of the “Chance” party, Alexei Lungu.
Serbia’s December elections: change or civil war?
Another round of elections is fast approaching in Serbia this December. The upcoming vote is extremely important because it’s both local and parliamentary. The elections will also gauge Serbia’s opinion of the current leadership led by President Aleksandar Vučić. After CRTA opinion polls institute claimed that for the first time more citizens gave Vucić a negative rating than a positive one, the Danas newspaper spoke to political analyst Miljan Mladenović. He explained that Vučić’s electoral support is likely to decline due to a normal phenomenon that occurs after times of crisis. Speaking to the same newspaper, actress Svetlana Ceca Bojković, who joined the ProGlas petition (signed by over 140,000 citizens) to encourage people to vote, fears that Serbia could face civil war if people don’t vote in large numbers.
New main rival accuses Erdoğan of “coup attempt”
Meanwhile, in Turkey, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new main opponent, Özgür Özel (who replaced Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as the leader of the CHP centre-left party), has made his debut as an energetic opponent at the head of the CHP. As quoted by Reuters, he has already announced that the party is “on the road to victory” in the local elections in March 2024. The daily Cumhuriyet (TR) also reported that Özel accused Erdogan of a “coup attempt” after attacking a Constitutional Court decision to release a jailed MP. “Come to your senses, we are here. The Republican People’s Party is here,” Özel said.
On the same topic
Tirana Times | 23 November | EN
The Albanian international newspaper Tirana Times reported that Albania’s ruling Socialist Party quickly approved the 2024 state budget without debate, raising concerns about democratic integrity. Opposition MPs claim the majority is denying them their ‘constitutional rights’ to form ‘parliamentary investigative commissions’. The ruling Socialists are circumventing protests by scheduling online meetings and outnumbering the opposition. International partners, including the US, EU and UK, say the situation is “unacceptable”. The opposition, led by former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, pledges to continue to work for the restoration of democracy, but internal conflicts don’t help.
Rigon Qarkaj | Kosovo 2.0 | 27 October | EN, SQ, SR
Writing on the journalism platform Kosovo 2.0, a legal adviser argues that unimplemented court decisions and institutional negligence in combating gender-based violence are costing women their lives. The failure to enforce proper criminal sentences allows perpetrators to escape justice, leading to tragic consequences such as the murder of 18-year-old Marigona Osmani. Recent incidents, such as the murder of 35-year-old Hamide Magashi, underline the urgent need for more effective sentencing and a serious commitment to tackling gender-based violence in Kosovo.
Solomon | 17 October | EN, GR
Investigative platform Solomon has revealed that Avramar, a giant company that controls an estimated 70% of Greece’s fish farming industry, is facing a financial crisis that threatens the entire sector. The cause? Shareholder companies Amerra and Mubadala are allegedly failing to meet commitments to inject funds, threatening Avramar’s survival. Despite promises to repay part of its €400 million debt in 2023, Avramar is now seeking a new loan, claiming an imminent crisis. Concerns have been raised about the banks’ due diligence and the Bank of Greece’s oversight.