Sunday, April 10, 2005

Macedonia hopes third time lucky in latest round of local elections

Macedonians vote Sunday -- some for the third time in a month -- as this tiny Balkan nation holds the latest round of local elections repeatedly marred by voting irregularities.

International monitors and the U.S. State Department have urged the government to improve on previous election days.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported ballot stuffing and voter intimidation in the March 13 first round. Two weeks later, similar problems dogged second round runoffs and first round reruns ordered by the country's Supreme Court at 33 polling stations.

About a third of registered voters can vote Sunday. Sixty-five out of 85 mayoral races have finished, but the two biggest municipalities -- Skopje and the ethnic Albanian stronghold Tetovo -- remain up for grabs.

Opposition-backed businessman Trifun Kostovski, 58, is expected to win in the capital, Skopje, after his opponent, government-backed Risto Penov, 47, unofficially withdrew from the race.

Penov's name is still on ballot slips after the election commission said Penov -- the current mayor of Skopje -- could not formally withdraw at this late stage.

Rival ethnic Albanian parties were competing in Tetovo -- the Democratic Party of Albanians and the Democratic Union for Integration.

Although DPA candidates' names will appear on ballot slips, DPA spokesman Sulejman Rushiti said the party would boycott the second round in protest of irregularities in the first round.

The local elections are a test for reforms drawn up after a 2001 insurgency by ethnic Albanian rebels that convulsed the landlocked nation of 2.1 million people. Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia's population.

The stakes are high with Macedonia seeking to join NATO as early as next year, with a long-term aim of European Union membership.

Robert Dickson, the British ambassador to Macedonia and a representative of NATO, warned Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski that repeated election irregularities would damage Macedonia's hopes of joining the alliance.

"We very much hope he will be able to put some concrete ideas on the part of the government for improving the conduct of elections in this country," Dickson said Wednesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

don't boycott elections!

bring video cameras and record the irregularities!

if you don't you will have to fight for your right to live later!