Macedonia orders partial repeat of marred poll

Macedonia's election authorities on Wednesday ordered a partial repeat of the weekend's snap parliamentary poll that was marred by violence, reported dpa.

The vote is expected to be repeated in at least 25 locations where gunfights, fistfights, intimidation and other blatant irregularities hampered a free election.

One person was killed by police, several others were injured and around a dozen detained during Sunday's vote as violence flared amid political rivalries in areas dominated by the Albanian minority.

The state election commission may order a repeat vote in yet more locations as it is considering 58 additional complaints, with a deadline of Friday to rule on them.

The new vote was scheduled for June 15, amid breaking-point tensions among the Albanians, who make up 25 per cent of the Macedonian population. The minority is concentrated in the north-west of the country.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE took a landslide win and an absolute majority Sunday, but was nevertheless widely expected to forge a coalition with one of the two big Albanian parties.

A multi-ethnic coalition is considered a safeguard against deeper discontent among the Albanians, who launched an insurgency for more rights in 2001.

In the provisional ballot-count, Gruevski's partner in the outgoing coalition, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), was far behind its bitter rivals, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

It was not immediately clear how much the repeat vote can change the Albanian post-election landscape.

Local analysts insist that Gruevski would have to change his partners in case the DUI remains dominant, or face more volatility in the Albanian part of Macedonia.

The marred election may have further hampered Macedonia's already stalled EU membership bid.

Skopje won the status of a membership candidate in 2005 but has not progressed much since.

Now, with the election judged as not up to international standards by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Brussels and Washington reacted with warnings.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said he was "very concerned" and the EU's top diplomat Javier Solana said he was expecting to "see improvements" in the situation.

The US said there were "some very serious problems" with the election and the government did not take adequate steps to protect voters from violence.

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