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Monitors criticize Macedonia vote

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Latest update : 2008-06-02

Foreign observers said on Monday that parliamentary elections in Macedonia did not meet international standards, calling attention to repeated violence that prevented voters from "freely expressing their free will."

Foreign observers said Monday that Macedonia parliamentary polls at the weekend failed to meet international standards as they were marred by violence between ethnic Albanian activists.
   
"Key international standards were not met," the monitors said in a statement issued by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the continent's elections watchdog.
   
"Organised attempts to violently disrupt the electoral process in parts of the ethnic Albanian areas made it impossible for voters ... to freely express their will," it said.
   
The elections -- the fifth in Macedonia since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 -- had been seen as a test of the landlocked Balkan state's democratic credentials and its hopes of joining the European Union.
   
But they were marred by unrest, with one person dying in one of several gun battles in ethnic Albanian-populated areas where polling was also tainted by allegations of intimidation and ballot fraud.
   
"Violence and attempts to manipulate the campaign sadly cast a shadow over otherwise well-run elections that gave most voters a real choice between an array of political forces," said OSCE official Pia Christmas-Moller.
   
"The violence we noted in ethnic Albanian areas is an unacceptable breach of peace and peoples' democratic rights," Christmas-Moller said in the statement.
   
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the head of a delegation of European Commission observers, said while "well-organised," a large number of voters were deprived of the right to take part in the Macedonian elections.
   
This, he said, was "due to the irresponsible, violent and destructive actions of activists of the two major Albanian parties," the Democratic Union for Integration and the Democratic Party of Albanians.
   
"Such actions are not conducive to the democratic process and the integration of this country in European and transatlantic structures," he stressed.
   
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski claimed victory for his conservative VMRO-DPMNE party after results showed it had won twice as many votes as its nearest rivals, the Social Democratic Union.

Date created : 2008-06-02

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