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Europe

Macedonian Election Goes to Incumbent

After snap elections marred by violence, Macedonian conservative leader Nikola Gruevski claimed overwhelming victory.

Nikola Gruevski

Gruevski called the victory "historic"

Based on a count of some 80 percent of the vote, Prime Minister Gruevski said his VMRO-DPMNE "For a Better Macednoia" coalition will have more than 60 mandates in the 120-seat parliament.

"This is an historic victory," said Gruevski in Skopje late Sunday, June 1. He promised improved ties to the EU and NATO.

Gruevski said he regretted the election violence that had led to death of one person and many injuries. Voting had to be stopped in 20 sites, mostly in minority-Albanian areas.

A parade of Albanian supporters, who favored the ethnic Albanian party DUI

Colorful opposition came from ethnic Albanians

Gruevski said the vote should be repeated there.

Nationalist anger fuels vote

Still, the violence that marred elections may well perpetuate divisions and delay the country's progress toward European Union membership. Gruevski's conservative coalition will have the healthiest majority in parliament in over a decade, riding on a wave of nationalist anger over Greece blocking Macedonia's NATO membership invitation in April.

The victory vindicated Gruevski's controversial decision to call a snap election, gambling that the snub would strengthen his hand and pay off with a stronger four-year mandate.

Hand-sprayed campaign poster of Albanian party leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, (DUI), of Ali Ahmeti

Graffiti artists played on violence theme

But with one man dead and nine others wounded, some observers blamed Gruevski for ignoring the risk of violence among the 25-percent Albanian minority, divided between two hostile parties both with links to armed groups.

Power sharing disputes

Besides the gunfire, which halted voting in one town, ballot boxes went missing and two election officials were briefly held by gunmen before being rescued unharmed by police.

In 2001, the West used the lure of NATO and EU membership to get Albanian guerrillas to disarm and take part in national politics. But the Albanian community is now riven by disputes over who gets to share power.

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