Saturday, July 15, 2006

Macedonia to hold some election reruns

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Macedonia will hold election reruns at about 1 percent of the country's polling stations because of irregularities in the July 5 parliamentary election, authorities said Friday.

The repeat voting at 29 polling stations on July 19 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.

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.

Macedonia's State Electoral Commission ordered the reruns Friday and will only announce final results after that process is complete, commission spokesman Zoran Tanevski said.

Irregularities included intimidation outside polling stations and alleged attempts to stuff ballot boxes.

Under the commission's 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.

The DPA party has accused the DUI of election fraud and submitted complaints to the electoral commission.

Trying to shake off its nationalist past, the VMRO said it would join forces with anyone except the outgoing Social Democrats provided they accept its economic program.

A partnership between VMRO and a minority party could bolster stability in Macedonia, five years after an ethnic Albanian uprising led to months of fighting against government troops and left some 80 people dead.

VMRO-DPMNE spokesman Antonio Milososki told the Associated press Friday that coalition negotiations with the two Albanian parties are progressing in the "right direction."

"We hope we will be able to reach an agreement for a new coalition government at the beginning of next week," Milososki said.

The new parliament is expected to convene by July 26, and after Macedonia's president has had 10 days to give the leading party the order to form the next government.

Buckovski's outgoing administration had partnered with the DUI.

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