Monday, July 10, 2006

Macedonia avoids EU backlash following smooth elections

EU candidate state Macedonia passed an important litmus test for its membership goal on Wednesday (5 July) as elections in the country were generally peaceful and fair.

The social democrat prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Vlado Buckovski conceded defeat early Thursday morning to the centre-right opposition, after a poll which had been closely watched by Brussels.

The election campaign had seen a series of incidents of violence and intimidation in the Balkan country which scooped official EU candidate membership status in December last year.

But soothing EU fears that the election results would cause further trouble, Mr Buckovski was quick to congratulate the winning opposition.

"The opposition got the most votes and support of the citizens," he stated according to the BBC.

"But Macedonia is the main winner as the citizens showed that they could vote in free and fair elections," he said.

"We want to tell the citizens that we'll be in the parliament to continue to work for Macedonia to be part of the EU integration."

For its part, the opposition leader Nikola Gruevski declared that "the top priority of the government will be integration into the EU," according to AP.

Contrary to the election campaign, which saw shooting and other incidents primarily between rival ethnic Albanian groups, no serious incidents were reported on polling day itself apart from some "irregularities reported by the electoral commission".

"I hope we will earn positive marks from Brussels," said Macedonia's president Branko Crvenkovski according to Reuters.

The EU had made clear before the vote that in case of serious difficulties during voting, accession preparations could be delayed.

Preliminary results showed the centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party had 33 percent of the vote, while the ruling social democrats trailed at 24 percent, with further official results due on Thursday.

The VMRO-DPMNE faces tough coalition talks with ethnic Albanian parties which could help the them to a majority.

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