Landslide in Macedonia Vote, Violence Damages EU Hopes

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski scored an overwhelming election victory Sunday, but the violence that marred the election may perpetuate divisions and delay the country’s progress toward European Union membership.
Gruevski’s conservative VMRO-DPMNE party will have the healthiest majority in the parliament in more than a decade, riding a wave of nationalist anger over Greece blocking Macedonia’s NATO membership invitation in April.
The victory vindicated Gruevski’s controversial decision to call a snap election, gambling that the snub would strengthen his hand and pay off with a stronger four-year mandate.
But with one man dead and nine others wounded, some observers blamed Gruevski for ignoring the risk of violence among the 25 percent Albanian minority, divided between two hostile parties, both with links to armed groups.
“We can expect a very bad report card,” said analyst Dane Taleski. “We won’t be getting a date for [EU] accession talks this year.”
The head of the Social-Democratic Union, Radmila Sekerinska, said Macedonia had paid “too high a price.”
Though confined to Albanian areas, the violence could perpetuate a Western impression that, seven years after Macedonia was pulled back from the brink of all-out ethnic war, the Kalashnikov is still a part of the political process.
“Our fatherland said goodbye to good reason and to its EU and NATO ambitions,” influential daily Dnevnik said in an editorial.
Krisztina Nagy, spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Brussels would wait for the monitors’ full report but had previously made clear that free and fair elections were “an essential element” for EU progress.