Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Albanians in Macedonia Enlist U.S. Help to Form Government

A group of ethnic Albanian "independent intellectuals" in Macedonia has asked United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene in the formation of a new government that will protect the rights of ethnic Albanians. Skopje Albanian language daily Lajm on Friday published a letter sent to Rice and signed by 34 "independent intellectuals" demanding that incoming prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, includes in his cabinet members of the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE won the 5 July parliamentary election and decided to form a coalition government with DUI’s rival, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and several minor Macedonian parties. The DUI won 17 seats in the 120-seat parliament, more than the DPA, which won 11 seats taking the second biggest share of the ethnic Albanian vote.

In bypassing the DUI in favor of the DPA, Gruevski has "ignored the Albanian majority in forming the government," the intellectuals said in a letter to Rice.

"We, politically independent ethnic Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia, are concerned about political developments in our country, particularly in the part inhabited by ethnic Albanians," the letter said. Gruevski’s boycott of the biggest ethnic Albanian party made ethnic Albanian participation in the elections pointless, the intellectuals said in the letter.

"We hope and expect that your Excellency will use your influence in the defense of basic democratic rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia to elect their own representatives in the government,” the intellectuals said.

Gruevski announced the composition of his cabinet this week and it was supposed to be voted by parliament, but the parliamentary decision was postponed for next week.

DUI was a coalition partner in prime minister Vlado Buckovski's government, which was defeated in the July poll. The DUI has fought for a position in Gruevski's government as well, claiming this is what ethnic Albanian voters back.

The general election campaign was marred by violence in which several people were beaten up and two people wounded in incidents involving firearms. Most violent incidents during the campaign occurred between the DUI and the DPA which were fighting for the ethnic Albanian vote: about 25 percent of Macedonia's two million population.

Macedonia is an official European Union candidate and also has its sights set on NATO membership.

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