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Macedonia - Election 2000

Macedonias 2000 local elections indicated that problems facing the democratization process in the country are more widespread and pervasive than previously thought. On 31 July 2000, Macedonian Assembly President Savo Klimovski called for municipal elections to be held on September 10, moving election day forward by more than 45 days from the original October 31 date. This abrupt change significantly diminished the amount of campaigning time left for the opposition and presaged an election day flawed by irregularities. Although voting on election day was calm and orderly in a majority of municipalities, election observers reported incidents of ballot stuffing, proxy voting, intimidation and violence at polling stations. Additionally, the State Electoral Commission (SEC) refused to release official results. This left the local Municipal Election Councils (MECs) with the task of releasing results.

Run-off elections were held on September 24. Six re-run rounds were held afterward for polling stations and municipalities where the voting was interrupted. Although the second round went more smoothly, widespread ballot stuffing, group voting, proxy voting, intimidation, denying voters the right to cast their ballot, and gunfire leading to at least three deaths loomed over the election. As of the end of 2000, complete results of the municipal elections were still not available since each municipality is responsible for issuing its own results and the SEC has been unwilling to declare the results official.

Tensions erupted into open hostilities in Macedonia in February 2001, when a group of ethnic Albanians near the Kosovo border carried out armed provocations that soon escalated into an insurgency. Purporting to fight for greater civil rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, the group seized territory and launched attacks against government forces. Many observers ascribed other motives to the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA), including support for criminality and the assertion of political control over affected areas. The insurgency spread through northern and western Macedonia during the first half of 2001. Under international mediation, a cease-fire was brokered in July 2001, and the government coalition was expanded in July 2001 to form a grand coalition which included the major opposition parties.

One informed observer caustically remarked, only days after the unity government's formation, that "this government has nothing to do with genuine democracy . . . [and] is too weak and fragile to undertake any serious reform in the country." The expanded coalition of ruling ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders, with facilitation by U.S. and European Union (EU) diplomats, negotiated and then signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001, which brought an end to the fighting.

The agreement called for implementation of constitutional and legislative changes, which laid the foundation for improved civil rights for minority groups. The Macedonian parliament adopted the constitutional changes outlined in the accord in November 2001. The grand coalition disbanded following the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the passage of new constitutional amendments. A coalition led by Prime Minister Georgievski, including DPA and several smaller parties, completed its parliamentary term.





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