- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

SKOPJE, Macedonia Macedonian voters ousted the ruling VMRO party of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski yesterday as this troubled Balkan land took a major step toward democracy just a year after avoiding a civil war pitting ethnic Macedonians against a large Albanian minority.
Mr. Georgievski conceded last night to the Together for Macedonia coalition headed by Social Democratic Union leader Branko Crvenkovski. The nationalist government had been plagued by corruption and charges it took too hard a line on the country's ethnic problems.
In the race between ethnic Albanian parties, the Democratic Party of Albania, the junior partner in the government, also acknowledged defeat to the Union for Democratic Integration, headed by former Albanian rebel leader Ali Ahmeti.
"Macedonia has won. The people have won. We will work from our heart," Mr. Crvenkovski, a former prime minister, said last night.
While there were seven killings in the weeks leading up to the election, including the shooting of three policemen, there were comparatively few violent incidents yesterday, according to international observers.
"The relative lack of violence and also the effective conduct of the Macedonian State Election Commission is indicative that democracy is taking seed here," said George A. Folsom, president of the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization.
Some Western diplomats, as well as local leaders, had feared that the election would spark renewed violence between Macedonia's Eastern Orthodox population and its ethnic Albanian, mostly Muslim minority, roughly one-third of the landlocked country's 2 million people.
The election, the fourth in this young democracy's 11-year history, will determine control of the 120-seat parliament. Turnout was more than 70 percent, higher than expected.
There were relatively few reports of violence by the time voting closed. Final vote tallies are expected today.


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