Violence erupts in snap Macedonian elections
Incidents and violence among rival ethnic Albanian voters marred Macedonian snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, national television MTV said, dpa reported.
Two men were wounded in shooting incidents which also involved police as major irregularities were reported in four villages in the north-western, Albanian-dominated section of Macedonia. Lesser violations occurred elsewhere, reports said.
The violence and tension among the Albanians already marred the election campaign of the rival Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).
The opposition DUI has accused the DPA, a part of the outgoing government coalition, of orchestrating the violence.
More than 1.7 million Macedonians, a quarter of them Albanians, are eligible to vote in Sunday's election. Just under 11 per cent of the electorate had turned out by 10 am (0800 GMT), three hours into the vote. Polling stations close at 7 pm.
Of the 20 parties and coalitions running for the 120 assembly seats, only four are expected to qualify.
The centre-right coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE is the clear frontrunner ahead of opposition rival and leader of the centre-left coalition, Radmila Sekerinska's Social Democratic Alliance (SDSM).
The crucial, tense fight for votes was taking place among ethnic Albanians.
The DUI has been tipped to win far more votes than the DPA, as in the 2006 election, but may nevertheless again be left out of the ruling coalition, depending on whether the VMRO and the DPA win enough seats to renew their alliance.
The DUI governed Macedonia as SDMS junior partners between 2002 and 2006.
The election is yet again, as in 2006, 2002 and in a 2004 referendum, viewed as a test of the political maturity of Macedonia, which was on the verge of a civil war in 2001. All recent elections were marred by violence and incidents.
The country remains uninvited to join NATO over the row about its name with neighbouring Greece and has not progressed much towards European Union membership since winning the status of a candidate three years ago.
Now Macedonians, concerned over secessionist aspirations among the Albanians, feel that the very survival of their country hinges on membership of the EU and particularly NATO.
Hundreds of foreign and thousands of local observers were monitoring the election process. Voting started at 7 am (0500 GMT) and would end 12 hours later.
The first unofficial results are expected hours after the voting ends and the state election commission must announce its own unofficial results within 12 hours of the close of voting.