Protests Raise Ethnic Tensions in Western Macedonia After Local Elections

Several thousand Macedonians took to the streets and jeered the country’s PM after the ethnically-mixed town of Kicevo got its first Albanian mayor in Sunday’s municipal vote. Fatmir Dehari from the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, became mayor in the first round of the local elections on Sunday amid strong ethnic mobilisation in the town during the pre-poll campaign.

He was able to win thanks to the attachment of surrounding rural areas to the town which made Kicevo a predominantly Albanian municipality. The change was agreed in 2004 but took effect at these elections. Voters from the Albanian diaspora also poured into the town from abroad to help elect its first Albanian mayor. Kicevo’s new mayor Dehari was once a member of the now-disbanded Albanian guerrilla force that fought against Macedonian security troops in 2001.

A group of protesters booed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski after he arrived in Kicevo on Tuesday, shouting “traitor” and accusing him of giving up Kicevo to the ethnic Albanian community. Another group rallied in defense of the Macedonian premier, and a brief scuffle broke out between the opposing demonstrators. Gruevski insisted he was there “to ease tensions” and to reassure people that “Kicevo remains a Macedonian town”.

Read the full article here.

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