Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny arrested on arrival as he returns home
LONG READ: The oligarch problem
COVID-19 and Trump’s indifference helped human rights abusers in 2020
Durov rejects Western funds’ offer to buy 5%-10% of Telegram with $30bn valuation
One of Russia’s biggest wood product companies, Segezha could be Sistema’s next IPO
New Ukrainian VC firm QPDigital aims to invest up to $100 million in digital startups
EBRD investments reach record €11bn in pandemic-struck 2020
OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
EBRD says loan to Estonia’s controversial Porto Franco project was never disbursed
Estonian premier quits after Tallinn development scandal
Czech Pirates and Mayors approve final coalition agreement for 2021 elections
OUTLOOK 2021 Czechia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
OUTLOOK 2021 Hungary
Hungarian government remains silent after Capitol riots
World Bank expects modest recovery for Europe and Central Asia in 2021
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
Slovakia to invest €1.2bn in digitisation
BALKAN BLOG: The controversial recipe for building up Albania
Heavy flooding causes chaos in parts of Southeast Europe
Vodafone Albania plans €100mn infrastructure investments after AbCom merger
OUTLOOK 2021 Albania
Turnover rose on Bosnia's two stock exchanges in 2020 while prices fell
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
Kyiv accuses Bosnian President Dodik of lying about icon gifted to Russian foreign minister
Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures holds first close of new fund on €44mn
ING THINK: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
OUTLOOK 2020 Bulgaria
Labour demand down 28% y/y in Croatia in 2020
Zagreb Stock Exchange's Crobex10 index at highest level since March 5
OUTLOOK 2021 Kosovo
Arrera Automobili aims to launch Albania’s first supercar
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Moldova’s PM resigns to prepare the ground for early elections
Socialist lawmakers in Moldova scrap settlement on $1bn bank frauds
75% of Montenegrins want EU membership
Montenegro’s new ruling coalition carves up top state jobs
OUTLOOK 2021 Montenegro
North Macedonia's manufacturing confidence indicator down by 8.5 pp y/y in December
OUTLOOK 2021 North Macedonia
Transparency International warns of high corruption risk in CEE defence sectors
OUTLOOK 2021 Romania
Romania’s central bank cuts monetary policy rate by 25bp to 1.25%
Romanian construction companies' activity slows in November after intense 2020
OUTLOOK 2021 Serbia
Slovenia’s opposition files no-confidence motion against Jansa cabinet
Slovenia’s government to release funds to news agency STA after EU pressure
UK Moneyhub picks Slovenia for post-Brexit European base
Slovenia’s dire COVID-19 situation in 4Q20 caused second economic dip
Turkcell denies any affiliation with $1.6bn loan in default extended by Ziraat Bank to Virgin Islands company
BEYOND THE BOSPORUS: Let’s tentatively pencil in a date for Turkey’s hot money outflow
OUTLOOK 2021 Armenia
Armenia’s PM cautions conflict with Azerbaijan “still not settled” after trilateral meeting with Putin
COMMENT: Record high debt levels will slow post-coronavirus recovery, threaten some countries' financial stability, says IIF
OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Georgia’s political kingpin Bidzina Ivanishvili quits politics
Modern-day “Robin Hood” inspires Georgians drowning in debt
Iran’s navy conducts missile drill while analyst argues Trump even capable of nuclear strike in final days
TEHRAN BLOG: Who’s more credible? Johnson backing Trump’s Nobel chances or Iran applauding arrest warrant for US president?
Central Asia vaccination plans underwhelm, but governments look unruffled
Fears of authoritarianism as Kyrgyz populist wins landslide and backing for ‘Khanstitution’
OUTLOOK 2021 Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
Mongolian coal exports to China paralysed as Beijing demands virus testing of truck drivers
Mongolia fears economic damage as country faces up to its first local transmissions of coronavirus
Mongolia in lockdown after suffering first local coronavirus transmissions
OUTLOOK 2021 Tajikistan
China business briefing: Not happy with Kyrgyzstan
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
Turkmenistan: The dammed united
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
OUTLOOK 2021 Uzbekistan
Download the pdf version
The website of North Macedonia’s State Election Commission (SEC), or to be more exact the site's election section, was targeted by hackers immediately after polls closed in the snap general election on July 15, leaving the question of who stands behind the attack?
Even though the elections passed in a free and democratic manner and were among the most peaceful in the country so far, the denial-of-service (DDoS) attack left a big stain on the election — the first since the country changed its name to North Macedonia and become a Nato member.
The election ended with a narrow lead for the ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) ahead of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE. Some VMRO-DPMNE supporters have already indicated they will not accept a new SDSM-led government.
The SEC was hacked immediately after voting ended at 9pm on Wednesday. The election section then recovered for few minutes but the results disappeared again, preventing journalists and other interested people from monitoring the election results, which were announced with a huge delay a day after the election.
At the same time as the SEC site was brought down, the local news aggregator Time.mk was also hacked, but it recovered more quickly.
“We are under DDoS attack,” owner of Time.mk, Igor Trajkovski, said in a tweet at the time of the cyber attack. It was reported that Time.mk was attacked with more than 20mn IP addresses on July 15.
Most countries take measures to protect their electoral infrastructure in order to provide the maximum security on election day, which was not the case here in North Macedonia.
The cyber attack on the SEC website, which targeted the election platform, raised many questions about the way institutions in North Macedonia protect the election process.
The Macedonian Public Security Bureau does not even run its own website where people can get information about cyber security.
Officials from the local software company Duna Computers, which was selected before the election to manage the SEC’s electronic system for election statistics, said that the application for the election is a separate platform, which is independent from the SEC website, pointing out that the problem was with the SEC servers.
"We immediately told them that what happened was an attack and that there was no connection with Duna's election application,” Duna Computers’ owner Aleksandar Pajkovski said.
The attack was stopped as soon as Austrian telecommunication company A1 Austria, which has a unit in North Macedonia, A1 Makedonija, whose network SEC is using, intervened.
The cyber attack also raised other issues, such as controversial software procurement. Local media reported the day after the election that the procurement of the software by SEC was disputable, as Duna Computers was selected without a transparent tender.
Two local firms were invited to provide the software for processing election data, Duna and iVote, and Duna was selected by the SEC on June 19. The appeal by iVote was rejected and Duna officially won the contract on July 8, one week before the election.
The unprecedented cyber attack slowed the entire procedure of entering the votes while citizens and the media are still wondering what really happened.
As there are many doubts about the results, SEC president Oliver Derkoski said that the commission will now decide whether to have a manual count of the votes, something that happened in Kosovo's election in October 2019.
After he read the first results, Derkoski, who comes from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, said that the website was probably a target of external hackers and that the issue will be investigated.
Strangely, the cyber attack was only reported a day after the election, to the interior ministry, which is led by minister Nake Culev. also from VMRO-DPMNE. Culev is part of the interim government, including opposition members, that has run the country since January 2020 to open the way for the snap elections.
Election credibility undermined
The civic association MOST, which regularly monitors the country's elections, pointed out that although the election took place in a fair and democratic way, the hackers’ attack on the election platform might be a deliberate attack to disturb the electoral process.
MOST said that due to the attack, there is no complete insight into the initial election results.
"The timing with which the attack took place indicates that probably a previously planned attack was made to disrupt the credibility of the election process," MOST officials said.
Some staunch VMRO-DPMNE supporters hinted in a casual conversation with bne IntelliNews that nothing is accidental and that the attack could have been ordered from abroad by ex-prime minister and former VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Budapest in 2018 to avoid a prison sentence.
They even warned that if the formation of a new government does not go in favour of VMRO-DPMNE, which has not admitted defeat in the election and wants to return to power, “blood will be shed.”
VMRO-DPMNE hopes that the SDSM will fail to form a government, opening the way for the opposition party to return to power.
In a private conversation, some VMRO-DPMNE supporters even warned that should the party fail to return to power there will be political turmoil that will be much worse than the storming of the parliament in 2017, when the SDSM elected Talat Xhaferi from the ethnic Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) as speaker. The attack on the parliament left more than 100 people injured including SDSM leader (later prime minister) Zoran Zaev, and current Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska. That prompted court processes against many VMRO -DPMNE officials.
Levica (the Left) looks like a rightist party
The election was also marked by hate speech and a narrative of violence which came mostly from political newcomers.
Dimitar Apasiev, leader of Levica (the Left) that will enter the parliament for the first time, was accused by the SDSM by using “hate speech and threats with a fascist narrative”.
Despite its name and initial role as a supporter of workers’ rights, Levica is closer to the right-wing conservative VMRO-DPMNE.
"We condemn the dangerous calls from Levica and we ask the Public Prosecution Office to react, as there is no tolerance for threats with a fascist narrative,” SDSM said.
Law professor Apasiev, who will become one of the party’s two MPs, said in a Facebook post following the election “You lick us in vain. We'll shoot everyone!”
In another post he used street language in his reaction to SDSM threats to file charges against the following comment:
“Sorospiski [Soros-connected] sweethearts. I am a new to politics, but I am a professor in law. Don't hit me with these bullets.”
VMRO-DPMNE claims the Colourful Revolution of 2016 was financed by philanthropist George Soros.
Apasiev, who claims election theft as he is convinced his party should have won several more seats in the assembly, also told a news conference that he does not want to enter into coalition with the SDSM.
After the election, Zaev announced he is going on holiday and will launch coalition talks to form a new cabinet after the big Macedonian national holiday on August 2.
here to continue reading this article
and 5 more for free or purchase
12 months full website access including
the bne Magazine for just $250/year.
Register to read the bne monthly magazine for
Password could contain only
and have 8-20 symbols length.
Please complete your registration by confirming your
A confirmation email has been sent to the email
address you provided.
can't be empty.
No user with
this email address.
Access recovery request has expired, or you are using
the wrong recovery token. Please, try again.
Access recover request has expired.
Please, try again.
To continue viewing our content you need to complete
the registration process.
Please look for an email that was sent to
with the subject line
"Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have
instructions on how to complete registration
process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in
case this communication was misdirected in your
If you have any questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry, but you have used all your free articles fro
this month for bne IntelliNews. Subscribe
to continue reading for only $119 per year.
Your subscription includes:
For the meantime we are also offering a free
digital weekly newspaper to subscribers to
the online package.
Click here for more subscription options,
including to the print version of our
flagship monthly magazine:
Take a trial to our premium daily news
service aimed at professional investors that
covers the 30 countries of emerging
For any other enquiries about our
products or corporate discounts please
contact us at
If you no longer wish to receive
Magazine annual print
Website & Archive
Combined package: web
access & magazine print
Take a trial to our premium daily news service
aimed at professional investors that
covers the 30 countries of emerging Europe: