Saturday, August 26, 2006

Protests As Macedonian Parliament Meets To OK New Government

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP)--The Macedonian parliament convened Friday to approve formally the new conservative government, as about 3,000 supporters of an ethnic Albanian party left out of the ruling coalition staged a protest.
Prime Minister-designate Nikola Gruevski requested parliament's approval for a coalition government after his VMRO-DPMNE party won July 5 elections.
After weeks of negotiations, Gruevski, a former finance minister, chose a Cabinet he said would attract foreign investment, stimulate Macedonia's stagnant economy and fight corruption.
"Macedonia has plunged deeper and deeper into poverty in the last 15 years of transition and that is the biggest threat for social and political security. This government intends to initiate an economic revival with strong reforms and to improve the well-being of the people," Gruevski told lawmakers.
Gruevski chose the ethnic Albanian DPA party as a coalition partner, angering supporters of the rival DUI minority group who have staged several protests in recent weeks.
The Cabinet includes two U.S.-educated executives who were named as deputy premiers: Vele Samak, a marketing manager at Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), and Gligor Taskovic, a senior executive at the Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation, AMBO. Both men are tasked with attracting overseas investment.
Fifteen years after Macedonia split peacefully from Yugoslavia, unemployment is at 36%. The country is also still recovering from a 2001 insurgency by rebels from the country's ethnic Albanian minority - which makes up about a quarter of the country's 2.1 million population.
The Democratic Party of Albanians, or DPA, is a traditional partner in conservative governments and was handed the ministries of health, education, culture and the environment.
The rival DUI had demanded a place in the coalition, arguing that failure to include it would ignore the will of the country's ethnic Albanians. About 3,000 of its supporters gathered outside parliament in protest in central Skopje.
DUI deputies have staged walkouts from parliament and joined recent road blockades.
"We won a majority of the votes among Albanians and we do not want Gruevski to (damage) our dignity," said 22-year-old Hisni Ismaili, a DUI supporter at the protest.
The demonstration ended peacefully.

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