The Nando times - Macedonia's Albanians protest partial annulment of election

By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDES

SKOPJE, Macedonia (November 30, 1999 12:27 a.m. EST) - Macedonia's ethnic Albanians protested on Monday the Supreme Court's partial annulment of recent presidential elections, saying the decision directed blame at them.

An ethnic Albanian leader accused the Supreme Court of bowing to political pressure when it ruled over the weekend that the presidential elections should be repeated in 230 polling stations - mostly in ethnic Albanian-dominated western Macedonia.

"The Supreme Court decision scorns the (ethnic) Albanians because it singles them out as the main culprits for the irregularity of the elections," said Arben Xhaferi, head of the Democratic Party of Albanians.

Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia's 2 million people.

Xhaferi, however, called on his fellow Albanians to go to the polls in the third round of voting, scheduled for Dec. 5, and vote for Boris Trajkovski, the candidate of the ruling center-rightist party whose victory was brought into question by the court's decision.

Trajkovski, who has faced criticism from Macedonia's majority Slavs for his alleged willingness to accept ethnic Albanian demands, had been declared the winner after two rounds of Macedonia's presidential elections on Oct. 31 and Nov. 14.

However, citing irregularities, but the Supreme Court last weekend nullified results involving more than 160,000 voters, raising doubts about Trajkovski's triumph.

The irregularities cited included people voting dozens of times, people casting ballots who weren't eligible to vote, and intimidation of voters.

Tito Petkovski, Trajkovski's rival, has won support from many Slavs for his rejection of the ethnic Albanians' request to have equal decision-making rights and to use of their own language and symbols in western Macedonia, which they dominate. Some of Macedonia's Slavs believe bowing to such demands would lead to division of the country.

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