02/06/2008 - Results
As expected the Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) led by outgoing Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, won the early general elections that took place in Macedonia on 1st June. The party in power since 2006 won 48.21% of the vote forging ahead of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the leading opposition party led by Radmila Sekerinska which won 23.19%. The VMRO-DPMNE should take 64 of the 120 seats in the Sobranie (Parliament) i.e. the absolute majority. The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI-BDI), led by Alija Ahmeti is the leading Albanian party and won 11.23% slightly ahead of the Albanian Democratic Party (PDA-PDSh), member of the outgoing government coalition led by by Menduh Thaci with 10.33% of the vote.
Turn out rose to 58.47% i.e. +2.49 points in comparison with that recorded in the general elections on 5th July 2006.
"It is an historic victory. Macedonia has the ability to move forwards. The country has the vital energy to progress, to join NATO and the European Union," declared the outgoing Prime Minister on the announcement of the first results. "I deplore the violence and incidents that irrupted in the North-West of Macedonia in areas that are Albanian in the majority. But the election was fair and calm in most of the rest of the country," he added. "I congratulate the Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity on these results but the price to pay was too high," stressed Radmila Sekerinska, leader of the Social Democratic Union.
The election was peppered with violence that led to one death and the injury of nine others near the HQ of the Democratic Union for Integration in Aracinovo, an Albanian village 10km to the north of Skopje. According to Ivo Kotevski, a police spokesperson, Naser Aivazi is said to have drawn out a gun in the polling station and was killed after the intervention of the police forces who were warned by polling station managers that several men armed with machine guns had just arrived. The police who were being targeted responded and killed Naser Aivazi; they injured several others. The police's version of the story is being challenged by members of the Democratic Union for Integration who maintain that the incident was started by plain clothes policemen who intercepted a convoy transporting ballot boxes and electoral material. "They fired in the air, it was total chaos, we got out of our cars and we tried to get away," said Shefik Duraku.
Seven people were also injured in the Albanian area of Cair in Skopje where a shoot-out took place in a school playground which was being used as a polling station. A Democratic Union for Integration leader is said to be in a critical condition and other people were injured. Many cases of fraud and infringements (destruction of ballot boxes, theft of electoral equipment, expulsion of observers who were supposed by monitoring the election, ballot stuffing etc.) were observed across the country. Zoran Tanevski, an Electoral Commission spokesperson, maintained that voting had been interrupted in 22 polling stations.
On the day of the election the police announced that they had finally arrested Agim Krasniqi, one of the commanders of the National Albanian Army, an organisation which headed the bloody conflict between the Macedonian and Albanian communities in 2001.
Macedonian President, Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM), condemned the violence and said that "it had no place in democratic society". "Overall the situation in the country is stable," declared Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski adding that, "incidents were limited in number and had mostly taken place in ethnic Albanian areas."
The European Commission said it was "extremely concerned by the use of violence during the general elections in Macedonia." "We have called on the government and the authorities in Macedonia to do everything they can to avoid more violence," declared Erwan Foueré, EU Special Representative in Macedonia.
Finally Albania also expressed its concern after the incidents that marked the elections. "The election on 1st June was an opportunity for the Albanians of Macedonia to prove that they had decided to contribute to the future of democracy and stability in Macedonia," stressed the President of the Albanian Republic, Bamir Topi.
The general elections were monitored by 464 international and 5,811 local observers. There were also 13,000 policemen on duty since Home Minister Gordana Jankulovska (VMRO-DPMNE), had said there would be "zero tolerance" on the day of the vote.
Macedonia has therefore failed the test set by the European Union which had made calm and transparency a condition to opening up membership negotiations with Skopje. On 13th May last ambassadors from several EU Member States met the President of the Republic Branko Crvenkovski to remind him that the democratic nature of the election featured amongst Brussels' requirements.
"Sadly and with great concern I have to say that after the general elections of 5th July 2006, which were considered to be very good overall, we have, this year, had a very bad election marked by many incidents. These took place mainly in the north west of the country mostly inhabited by Albanian speakers and they have eclipsed all hope of having the best elections ever organised and of proving to Europe that Macedonia can undertake free and fair elections," indicated the President of the Electoral Commission, Jovan Josifovzski.
The outgoing Prime Minister insisted on expressing his sympathy to the victims' families and indicated that a new round of voting would take place within the next two weeks. The EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Javier Solana asked for the organisation of a new round of voting in the 22 polling stations where the incidents had taken place. "In two weeks time Macedonia will show that it is able to organise fair, free, democratic elections in all polling stations and that it deserves to continue along the Euro-Atlantic path," declared Nikola Gruevski adding, "this election has to take place in all the stations where infringements were observed because every MP in Parliament has to be elected honestly."
The main Albanian opposition party, the Democratic Union for Integration has announced that it will not acknowledge the results in seven towns, notably in Tetovo due to the violence that occurred there. "These elections are the worst we have ever had since Macedonia won back its independence. The West is partly to blame because it was not firm enough and did not want to face up to the reality of the violence that took place during the previous elections," analyses Biljana Vankovska, a political scientist from the University of Skopje. She is quick to stress that tension between the Albanian and Macedonian communities may increase in the wake of the violence on 1st June.
37 year-old Nikola Gruevski who has been leader of the VMRO-DPMNE since 2005 will become Prime Minister again. Former amateur boxer and actor he was Finance Minister in the government led by Ljubco Georgievski (1998-2002), then economic advisor to the Serb government for privatisation after his party's defeat in the elections on 15th September 2002 (during his time as Finance Minister, Nikola Gruevski was responsible for privatisation in Macedonia). He became Prime Minister after his party's victory in the general elections of 5th July 2006.
The Prime Minister now has the heavy task of convincing Brussels and NATO leaders that they should open up membership negotiations.
General election results June 1st 2008 in Macedonia
Turn out: 58.47%
Source: Agence France-Presse