Thursday, July 27, 2006

Macedonia parliament convenes after conservative victory

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Macedonia's newly elected parliament convened Wednesday, after election officials confirmed victory for Nikola Gruevski's conservative opposition party in July 5 general elections.

The state electoral commission announced Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE won with 31.2 percent of the vote, ousting the ruling Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, who polled 22.4 percent and conceded defeat on the night of the election.

To govern, Gruevski will have to form a coalition with at least one party representing the country's ethnic Albanian minority, the DPA party or bitter rival DUI.

Final results were delayed by polling irregularities which forced authorities to hold election reruns on July 19 at about one percent of the nation's polling stations, a process that was again troubled by problems at a village near the capital Skopje.

But election commission spokesman Zoran Tanevski said the country's Supreme Court denied approval for a second rerun, arguing that the effect on the overall result would have been negligible.

Fair elections were a key condition for the country's ambitions to join NATO and the European Union.

International observers said the election were generally conducted properly, but they also pointed at some "serious irregularities" mainly in the ethnic Albanian-populated western parts of the country which need to be avoided in the future.

VMRO now has 45 deputies in the 120-seat parliament, while the center-left Macedonia Together Coalition led by the Social Democrats has 32.

The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration and a sister party have 17 seats, while the rival Democratic Party of Albanians has 11.

Four smaller parties have the remaining 15 seats.

It was the fifth parliament elected since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Landlocked Macedonia is still recovering from a 2001 insurgency by rebels from the country's ethnic Albanian minority.

President Branko Crvenkovski has 10 days to formally give Gruevski the order to form Macedonia's new government.

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