Friday, June 06, 2008

Macedonia: Ethnic Albanians protest vote violence

About 3,000 supporters of Macedonia's largest ethnic Albanian opposition party marched Thursday to protest violence during Sunday's national elections.

The Democratic Union for Integration, or DUI, said the peaceful demonstration in the capital, Skopje, also aimed to protest electoral "manipulation and illegitimacy."

Gunbattles and reports of ballot fraud in areas where the minority ethnic Albanians live prompted authorities to suspend voting in at least 22 polling stations on Sunday. One person was killed and eight were wounded in the fighting, which brought international condemnation at a time when Macedonia was trying to prove its credentials for European Union and NATO membership.

About 50 people have been detained over the last three days in connection with the violence and irregularities, while a court ordered at least 30 of them to be held for 30 days — including one policeman.

The election commission said reruns will be held June 15 in at least 25 polling stations, and the number could rise. The commission is reviewing 56 complaints from political parties.

The reruns could determine which of the two main — and bitterly opposed — ethnic Albanian parties will be invited into a governing coalition: DUI, run by former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti, or the Democratic Party of Albanians, run by Menduh Thaci.

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