Macedonia PM swept
celebrates the victory
of the opposition
coalition in Skopje
SKOPJE, Macedonia -- Macedonian
moderates swept aside hardline
nationalists to take power after the
country's first parliamentary elections
since a violent uprising by the ethnic
But the new government faces some
huge challenges, including building
bridges between the majority Slav
population and ethnic Albanians.
Prime Minister-elect Branko
Crvenkovski will have to work in
parliament with former rebel leader Ali
Ahmeti, who emerged as the most popular
Albanian politician but who many Slavs
consider a terrorist.
CNN's Alessio Vinci said it was
encouraging that the two communities had
spent time fighting an election rather
than fighting each other with guns.
Although there was some ethnic
violence during campaigning -- two
people were killed in the week before
Sunday's vote -- polling day passed off
The vote was seen as a key milestone
in the West-brokered peace deal that
ended the 2001 Albanian uprising.
Last year's violence is still fresh
in the memory of many Macedonians, who
blamed the violence on the outgoing
Initial fears that the hardline
government would not concede quickly
were proved to be unfounded when Prime
Minister Ljubco Georgievski went on
national television to admit defeat.
"The people of Macedonia chose
what they really wanted. It is fully
clear that we will not be able to form a
new government, and we are
congratulating the winner," he
Georgievski called the vote the most
democratic in the history of the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Celebratory gunfire also rang out in
the capital, Skopje, where opposition
supporters thronged the central square,
honking horns and waving party banners
but no clashes between ethnic groups
Crvenkovski said: "We showed
that Macedonia is going to survive for
eternity. I want to thank everyone who
went out and voted.
"Together we are going to show
that we are people who know when and
what to do -- and how to do it."
Preliminary results showed
Crvenkovski's Together for Macedonia
coalition had won at least 62 of 120
seats in the National Assembly while
Georgievski's party, known as VMRO,
obtained just 31 seats.
Ahmeti, who now advocates national
reconciliation, emerged as the most
popular politician among the Albanian
His supporters say it was his
leadership through the 2001 uprising
that helped secure a peace deal that
gave Albanians greater rights than they
had enjoyed before.
As well as closing the gap between
the two communities the new government
will also have to fight rampant
unemployment -- standing at 40 percent
by some estimates -- and a falling GDP
-- down 4.6 percent last year.