Macedonia to face election runoff

Ruling party presidential candidate to face socialist rival in second round on April 5.

     Ljubomir Frckovski came second in the presidential election with 20 per cent of the vote [AFP]

    Trailing the two frontrunners were Ljube Boskoski, an independent, and Imer Selmani, an ethnic-Albanian leader.

    The country's electoral commission put turnout at 57 per cent.

    Looking to Europe

    Ivanov, 49,  said on Monday: "Macedonia has shown that it had capacity for fair and democratic elections. We have shown through our actions that there are European values in Macedonia."

    Macedonia came close to war during a 2001 conflict between security forces and ethnic-Albanian fighters that ended with a peace accord giving the minority more rights and control over local affairs.

    Violence marred Macedonia's parliamentary elections in 2008 [AFP]
    Sunday's presidential poll was held in conjunction with local elections in which voters were also asked to elect mayors and councillors of major towns in Macedonia.

    The authorities increased security to prevent any repeat of the fatal shootings in in an ethnica Albanian area during parliamentary elections in 2008.

    Nikola Gruevski, the country's prime minister and head of the VMRO-DPMNE, described the vote as "one of the most successful" in Macedonia since it became independent from the former communist Yugoslavia in 1991.

    Gruevski said the elections were "a victory for Macedonian citizens" and "showed that we had the capacity and political will to conduct calm elections and follow the path to Europe".

    'Calm atmosphere'

    The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the continent's election watchdog, will give its verdict on the conduct of the poll later on Monday.

    Erwan Fouere, the EU's representative in Skopje, the country's capital, said: "We'll have to wait for the final ... report, but from what I have seen at the polling stations I have visited... the  elections seem to have taken place in a reasonably calm atmosphere.

    "For this I would like to congratulate the electoral board and especially the voters who despite the bad weather came out to vote."

    Ethnic tensions still linger in Macedonia eight years after it averted a civil war between its Slavic majority and ethnic Albanian minority, who account for 64 per cent and 25 per cent of its 2.2 million population, respectively.

    Macedonia is yet to start EU accession talks four years after becoming an official candidate to join the bloc.

    Its hopes of entering Nato have been blocked by Greece over an 18-year name dispute.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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