Three wounded in Macedonia election day shooting

In an ethnic Albanian area of the Macedonian capital Skopje, at least three people were wounded in shooting, police and party officials said.

Three wounded in Macedonia election day shooting

Voting in Macedonia's parliamentary election was halted for security reasons in an ethnic Albanian area in the north of the country, the electoral commission said on Sunday.

The commission did not elaborate and police were unavailable to comment on reports of shooting in the town of Aracinovo.

The poll is seen as a test of the nation's political maturity after campaign violence raised fears that slow progress toward European Union membership could be further delayed.

In an ethnic Albanian area of the Macedonian capital Skopje, at least three people were wounded in shooting, police and party officials said.

"We were attacked," said Izet Mexhiti, an official of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party, blaming activists of the rival Democratic Party of Albanians.

He said a DUI official from the party branch of the Cair neighborhood was wounded in the stomach and was treated in hospital. Two passers-by were wounded, he said, adding that his party had reports that three other people were also injured.

In the election, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is expected to win on a surge of nationalist defiance after Greece blocked a NATO invitation to Macedonia in April in a 17-year row over the name it shares with a Greek province.

His government, which will likely have to include a partner from the ethnic Albanian minority parties, will be asked to get NATO accession back on track, start EU membership talks and calm tensions after weeks of violence among rival Albanian factions.

Hard times

"These elections are not just important, they are crucial, Macedonia is facing hard times," said voter Goran Petkovski, 44. "I hope everyone does as I did and casts their vote peacefully."

The state news agency MIA had reported scuffles in ethnic Albanian areas, and said a small explosive device had been thrown at an empty cafe.

President Branko Crvenkovski has appealed for calm, noting that the first step to the EU and NATO was "to have peaceful, fair and democratic elections." Brussels has made clear the election is a test Macedonia must pass to start EU negotiations.

Some 1.77 million people are entitled to vote out of a population of 2 million. Polls close at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EDT), with voting overseen by some 2,000 local and 460 foreign monitors.

Serhiy Holovaty, head of the Council of Europe monitoring mission, told Reuters he had seen some irregularities in his early morning visits to a few polling stations, and had "noticed the possibility of manipulation of the results."



Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Haziran 2008, 14:52
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