First round of local election over
The first round of the Macedonian local elections were held on Sunday 10 September and have been the cause of much debate in the past week. Since voting stopped several official statements have been released.
The president of State Electoral Commission (SEC) Josif Lukovski says that SEC is still investigating objections from several political parties, and that official reports will not be released until all objections have been addressed
On Monday morning, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) subsidiary, the Organisation for Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights (ODIHR) which monitored the elections across the country, held a press conference at which OSCE Ambassador Charles Magee (head of mission) said that there were some problems in certain places with two very notable incidents (one in Kondovo and one in Debar, please see later), some proxy voting and other small problems.
The Council of Europe (also involved in the monitoring process) issued a far more general statement than that of the OSCE which said that in general this election was better than previous ones.
Austrian ambassador Harald Kotchy was refused access to observe the counting at the village of Morane (Studeničani municipality). Since then he has appeared in almost every newspaper and on every television station to complain about the fact.
On election day, there were shootings between sympathisers of the Democratic Party of Albanians Macedonia (PDSH) and Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), at two different locations: Debar (on the Albanian border) and Kondovo (close to Skopje). Several people were wounded but no-one was killed in the fighting which left four people from Kondovo in hospital, including a 19-year-old boy reported to be in a critical condition.
PPD leader Imer Imeri accused Minister of Interior Refet Elmazi (PDSH member) of visiting Çegrane, a PPD village stronghold, and other PPD-sympathetic villages, displaying the boot of his car full with weapons in order to frighten people into voting for PDSH. Elmazi denied all accusations, stating for the press and TV that he hasn't visited any of the places in question.
Imeri later stated, after first round of voting, that PPD will boycott the second round. This may have something to do with early results which indicate that PPD won only one mayoral seat.
Early results indicate that many municipalities will require a second round. A notable exception is the prestigious City Of Skopje mayorship which has been retained by the present incumbent, Risto Penov. Skopje's electorate made a pretty dismal turnout for the ballot; of 384,377 registered voters, only 217,373 (or 56.55 per cent) turned out to vote.
Penov, candidate of the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) opposition coalition won with 139,887 votes (64.35 per cent) before Lupčo Nikolovski-Fufo (owner of the vastly popular Dal Fu Fo restaurant chain) with 48,810 votes (22.55 per cent). These figures are still unofficial and will be confirmed in a full report on election figures as soon as they are released.
Across the rest of the country, early unofficial figures indicate the following: the SDSM has 17 mayoral seats; VMRO-DPMNE & DA coalition has 13; PDSH has nine seats; and PPD has one.
The second round is scheduled for the 24 September.
Anniversary of minister's death
It is one year after death of minister Radovan Stojkovski, his wife and 12-year-old daughter and their driver in a crash with a Norwegian NATO vehicle. The driver of the NATO vehicle, soldier Vesli Klark, was convicted to an 18 month sentence after he was tried in his home town close to Oslo. The families of the minister and his wife will each receive DM 300,000 as compensation from NATO, and the family of the driver will receive DM 110,000.
Early parliamentary elections?
In the wake of the local elections, there have been suggestions this week from some quarters of early parliamentary elections. However, these have been firmly stamped on by senior figures from the governement coalition. At the most recent press conference of VMRO-DPMNE & DA, MP Danilo Gligoroski stated that the idea of having early parliamentary elections was "stupid" because the state is not prepared for them. Arben Xhaferi (head of the Albanian coalition partner PDSH) simply says: "no early parliamentary elections."
On Tuesday, on the Macedonia-Kosovo border there was another incident involving shooting. Some people tried to cross the border illegally at "Kodra Fura," but a Macedonian soldier stopped them with "warning" shots. The would-be immigrants answered in a similar fashion but no one was injured. Eventually they gave up the attempt and turned back.
Macedonia, like the rest of the world, has problems with oil prices. But for now they have been frozen, until the elections finish.
On 13 September at the UN summit in New York, Greece & Macedonia signed an agreement for normalising relations between them, just after Athens decided to remove the economic blockade it had imposed on Macedonia. This is a great step forward in the normalisation of relations between the two states.
Macedonia is now linked to Egypt via the new Skopje-Cairo regular flights which started this week.
Eleanor Pritchard, 15 September 2000
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