Thursday, July 20, 2006

Macedonia holds limited election reruns

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Macedonians were voting again at several polling stations on Wednesday because of irregularities in the July 5 parliamentary election.

Following complaints by political parties about irregularities, the electoral commission ordered reruns at one percent of polling stations, which is not expected to affect the overall result.

International observers and the European Union said the election was generally fair, a key condition for the tiny Balkan nation's hopes of future membership in the EU and NATO.

But they also pointed at some "serious irregularities" mainly in the ethnic Albanian-populated western parts of the country. Irregularities included intimidation outside polling stations and alleged attempts to stuff ballot boxes.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0500GMT) and were due to close at 7 p.m. (1700GMT).

The rerun will not affect the overall result, which saw Nikola Gruevski's conservative party poised to return to power after four years of Social Democrat rule.

According to provisional results, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party is leading with 32.4 percent of the vote, while outgoing Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski's Social Democrats have 23.3 percent.

Buckovski conceded defeat hours after the polls closed.

Gruevski failed to win an outright majority and will have to form a coalition with one or both of the two main parties representing the country's ethnic Albanian minority, the DPA party and bitter rival DUI.

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