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Macedonia PM swept from power

Crvenkovski, left, celebrates the victory of the opposition coalition in Skopje
Crvenkovski, left, 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 Albanian minority.

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 peacefully.

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 government.

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 said.

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 were reported.

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 minority.

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.

Source: CNN
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