Macedonia conservatives headed to slim electoral victory

Macedonia conservatives headed to slim electoral victory

SKOPJE, Macedonia
Macedonia conservatives headed to slim electoral victory Nearly complete results in Macedonia’s early general elections show the country’s conservative coalition in a slim victory over its Social Democratic rivals, but with neither party winning enough parliamentary seats to form a government. Both sides have claimed victory.

The election was called as part of a Western-brokered deal to defuse a deep two-year political crisis sparked by a massive wiretapping scandal, in which the left-wing opposition had blamed the conservative prime minister for an illegal wiretapping operation targeting more than 200,000 people.

Results on Dec. 12 from 99.7 percent of polling stations showed the conservative coalition led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE with 38.06 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of the left-leaning coalition, headed by opposition leader Zoran Zaev’s Social Democrats, which garnered 36.69 percent, according to The Associated Press.

The electoral commission’s website, which crashed for extended periods overnight, gave no seat projections. Without a parliamentary majority the winner will have to seek to form a governing coalition with a smaller party, likely from among the country’s ethnic Albanian minority, where the Dec. 12 election produced unexpected results.

Political analyst Albert Musliu said the two main coalitions would now turn to the ethnic Albanian political bloc for negotiations.

“With this result, big bargaining will start,” Musliu said.

The Democratic Union for Integration, a party that usually allies with Gruevski, headed the ethnic Albanian vote with 7.3 percent of the total. A new ethnic Albanian party formed two years ago, Besa, came in an unexpected second with 4.87 percent. The Democratic Party of Albanians, which had been expected to finish second, was pushed into fourth behind Besa and another new party, the Alliance for Albanians.

Supporters of both Gruevski’s and Zaev’s coalitions took to the streets in celebration on the night of Dec. 11, claiming victory in the election which saw a turnout at 66.8 percent of the 1.8 million registered voters, one of the highest in recent general elections in Macedonia.