Macedonia holds peaceful poll re-run under EU gaze
( Reuters ) - A huge police operation in Macedonia ensured a partial re-run of parliamentary elections on Sunday passed peacefully after the European Union warned that the country's membership bid was on the line.
Police special forces secured polling stations in dozens of ethnic Albanian towns and villages as the authorities clamped down to prevent a repeat of the fraud, intimidation and gunfights that marred the original June 1 election.
The results of the re-run, involving around 10 percent of the population, cannot alter the overwhelming victory of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative VMRO-DPMNE.
But its conduct could be crucial with the EU weighing whether to open accession talks with Macedonia later this year, a move cast into doubt by the violence of two weeks ago.
Foreign election monitors will issue initial findings on Monday. But Macedonian authorities said voting had gone smoothly, with the exception of "minor irregularities."
"The state electoral commission has evaluated the electoral process so far as positive and correct," commission president Jovan Josifovski told reporters shortly before polls closed.
Police said there had been "no reports of the use of firearms or any violence at the electoral posts."
Macedonia's 25 percent Albanian minority is split between two rival parties vying for control of the north and west of the country, and a place in Gruevski's likely coalition government.
Gruevski had echoed appeals for calm from the EU and the United States, and warned party activists and their "political mentors" that he would not tolerate a repeat performance of the violence in which one person was shot dead.