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Macedonia Sees Re-run of Voting in Volatile Regions


The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia is holding a re-run of voting in dozens of ethnic-Albanian areas where the June 1 election was marred by fraud, intimidation and violence that killed at least one person. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest that the European Union is closely monitoring the ballot after warning that more violence could delay Macedonia's bid for membership of the organization.

Amid tight security, about 10 percent of Macedonia's population of two million people could vote again Sunday. Most voting took place in mainly ethnic Albanian areas where two rival parties are vying for control across the north and west of the country.

Sunday's re-run came after the June 1 ballot was overshadowed by what election observers described as vote rigging and some of the worst clashes in Macedonia since fighting broke out between government and ethnic-Albanian forces in 2001.

In the most serious incident, one person was killed and several others wounded in a vote-related gun battle at the village of Aracinovo, just north of the capital Skopje.

Election observer Serhiy Holovaty of the Council of Europe also complained about alleged attempts to manipulate the outcome of the previous round of voting in some areas of the country.

"We have noticed the possibility for manipulation with the results. These are possibilities. [For instance] there are two ballot boxes that have not been sealed at all," said Holovaty.

European observers have linked most of the troubles to two ethnic-Albanian parties - the Democratic Union for Integration and the Democratic Party of Albanians.

Sunday's ballot is not expected to change the outcome of the results that gave conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski the largest parliamentary majority in more than a decade. He gained popularity in April after Greece blocked an invitation for Macedonia to join NATO in a dispute over the country's name.

Analysts say Sunday's vote could decide which of the two main Albanian parties claims first place among the former Yugoslav republic's 500,000 Albanians.

Mr. Gruevski has been under pressure to cooperate with at least one of the parties, to ease ethnic tensions in the young Balkan nation. But he has warned his conservative party will not form a coalition with an ethnic-Albanian party if they will be linked to more election violence, which could undermine Macedonia's efforts to join the European Union.

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