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Europe
Macedonia PM claims victory
But violence and allegations of fraud mar vote and threaten Nato and EU membership.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2008 01:34 GMT
Gruevski, centre, promised to hold a re-run in areas where voting was suspended [AFP]
Macedonia's prime minister has claimed victory in the country's parliamentary elections that have been marred by reports of violence and allegations of electoral fraud.
 
Nikola Gruevski expressed regret over the violence and promised a re-run in all the affected areas in the northwest which has a majority of ethnic Albanians.
"In most parts the vote was fair and democratic, but sadly in one part there were irregularities," he said.

One person was killed and nine wounded in shootouts between rival ethnic Albanian groups or in standoffs with police, prompting voting to be suspended in 22 polling stations because of intimidation, violence or reports of ballot fraud.

The violence could jeopardise the Balkan country's bid for membership in the European Union and Nato, but Gruevski said Macedonia "has the energy for progress, to join Nato and EU".

 

The authorities said 21 people had been arrested.

 

Ivo Kotevski, an interior ministry spokesman, said those arrested included Agim Krasniqi, a former rebel commander.

 

In 2004 Krasniqi reportedly led a 50-strong armed group into a village north of Skopje claiming the government and ethnic Albanian leaders had broken promises to provide former rebels with amnesty and jobs.

 

Early lead

 

Gruevski's centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party won nearly half the votes in more than 80 per cent of the polling stations, Jovan Josifovski, head of the state election commission, said.

 

Preliminary results give the PM's party the
biggest majority in more than 10 years [AFP]

Preliminary results have put Gruevski's party far ahead of the Social Democrats' 22.19 per cent, giving the conservative VMRO-DPMNE the healthiest majority in Macedonia's parliament in more than 10 years.

 

The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) led by Menduh Thaci had 10.13 per cent while the rival ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) had 11.26 per cent.

If Gruevski fails to win a landslide he is likely to need the support of the DPA or the DUI to form a government.

 

Radmila Sekerinska, head of the Social Democrats, criticised the conduct of the election, saying it was "the worst organised elections".

 

"The price that we have paid today is too high because there were a loss of human life, violations, shootings," she said.

 

"I hope the wining coalition will consider that and will understand that this behaviour was unacceptable."

 

EU concerns

 

Erwan Fouere, head of the European Union office in Macedonia, said he was "deeply concerned" by the situation.


"We have appealed to the government and the state authorities to do everything possible to prevent further violence," he said.

 

Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

Voting was suspended in 22 polling stations
due to violence or reports of fraud [AFP]
Rebels fought a six-month insurgency in 2001 for more rights, but now the minority's two main parties are locked in bitter rivalry.

 

The DUI, the largest ethnic Albanian opposition party, said its party's headquarters in Skopje, the capital, had come under fire.
 
There were also reports of ballot-stuffing and allegations of fraud in villages around Skopje during the early hours of voting.

Before voting got under way international monitors recorded 13 reports of attacks against the DUI, including an incident in which attackers shot at the car of Ali Ahmeti, the party leader.

"DUI was the target of provocation, of violence, of attacks, but we have never sought to retaliate because we refuse to submit to [violence]," Xhevat Ademi, a senior party official, said.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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