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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 03:51 GMT 04:51 UK
Macedonia PM accepts defeat
Social Democrat leader Branko Crvenkovski
Crvenkovski's Social Democrats have won
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has admitted defeat in Sunday's general election.

Ljubco Georgievski
Georgievski: "Most democratic elections"
The opposition Social Democrats won 41%, while Mr Georgievski's nationalist VMRO could only manage 24%, according to an exit poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute.

"At this moment it is obvious that VMRO... will not form the new government," Mr Georgievski said on national television.

"These were the most democratic elections in the history of Macedonia," he added. "Good luck to the winners."

Exit poll results
Social Democratic Union - 41%
VMRO-DPMNE - 24%
DUI (Albanian) - 12%
Democratic Party of Albanians - 4%
International observers monitoring the polls said they had passed off relatively peacefully.

Many hope the vote will help cement the peace process which brought an end to last year's conflict between Orthodox Christian Macedonians and the minority Muslim ethnic Albanians.

The nationalist government had been accused of corruption and economic mismanagement.

Branko Crvenkovski, leader of the Social Democrats, has predicted his opposition coalition would get more than 50% of the vote when final results are announced on Monday.

New party

A number of violent incidents were reported along with other irregularities at polling stations during the first national vote since an internal uprising brought the country to the brink of civil war last year.

The ballot paper for the Macedonian general election
The ballot paper - with 24 party lists - was testing some voters
Elsewhere, however, polling day proceeded busily but quietly and, by the close of polling, election officials said turnout had reached more than 50% of the electorate.

Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann, who heads the monitoring group from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said there was no reason to believe the incidents had affected the outcome of the ballot.

The largest share of the ethnic Albanian vote, between 60% and 70%, appears to have gone to a new party set up by a former guerrilla leader.

Correspondents say the results could bring new tension if there is an attempt to bring Ali Ahmeti's party into government.

By law, ethnic Albanians are guaranteed a share of power.

The poll was watched by 800 OSCE observers - its biggest such operation so far.

Nato troops in Kosovo were also put on standby to back their colleagues who have been helping to implement last year's peace deal which ended an ethnic Albanian uprising.

But for some voters, the most troublesome part of the day was dealing with the 40-centimetre (16-inch) long ballot paper.

Unrest

Gunmen opened fire in at least two towns and raided a polling station.

Armed men seized a ballot box in Tetovo, according to police and official observers.

Election monitors reported that a gunman opened fire near a polling station in the village of Slupcane, near Kumanovo.

Map of Macedonia showing Skopje, Tetovo and Kumanovo
In Kumanovo itself, OSCE officials expressed concern that some voters had been intimidated.

Closer to Macedonia's capital Skopje, an ethnic Albanian party worker was reportedly wounded in a dispute by supporters from a rival group.

Pre-election violence had occurred mostly around Tetovo, with police officers and at least one ethnic Albanian rebel killed in recent days.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Matthew Price reports from Skopje
"Macedonians are hoping for an improvement in the economy"
EU envoy in Skopje, Alain Le Roy,
"I'm extremely pleased with how the election went"
See also:

16 Sep 02 | Media reports
14 Sep 02 | Europe
31 Aug 02 | Europe
13 Aug 02 | Europe
16 Sep 02 | Europe
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