New president for Macedonia

Crvenkovski will succeed reformist president Boris Trajkovski, who was killed in a plane crash in February.

Nino Kuzmanovski of the international monitoring group said Crvenkovski won 60.64 percent of the vote, compared to 39.36 percent for his rival, Sasko Kedev of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party.

The monitoring group estimated turnout above the 50-percent threshold required for the election to be declared

But the opposition disputes the figures.

Kedev’s party put turnout at 44 percent and informed international officials in Macedonia about alleged irregularities, demanding the government cancel the vote and call new elections.

About 55 percent of voters cast their ballots in the first round on April 14, less than in any election since the ethnically-mixed republic broke away from the former Yugoslavia and became independent in 1991.

The majority of Macedonians are dissatisfied with living standards in a country where the unemployment rate is above 35 percent and the candidates have had a tough task attracting people to the ballot box.

Analysts say support from the 300,000-strong ethnic Albanian electorate could be decisive for the outcome of the run-off.

The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the ethnic Albanian grouping allied to Crvenkovski’s Social Democratic Union (SDSM), called on its supporters to come out and vote for the current prime minister.

But the second strongest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), said it would not urge its supporters to vote for either of the candidates, although it was not calling for a boycott.

A seven-month conflict in Macedonia ended in August 2001 with an internationally-brokered peace accord, which gave the Albanian minority more civil and political rights.

Macedonia formally applied to join the EU on March 22, the first step in a process leading to full membership negotiations. The government hopes Skopje will become a member of the bloc by 2010.

The 41-year-old Crvenkovski, a veteran politician despite his age, was the favorite to win Wednesday’s run-off.

Kedev, also 41, has almost no political experience. A heart surgeon by profession, he was first elected a deputy in the Macedonian parliament in 2002.

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