Macedonia's conservative ruling party, the nationalist centre-right VMRO-DPMNE, claimed victory in yesterday's (5 June) early parliamentary elections but will probably have to seek coalition partners to form a stable government.
"This press conference is dedicated to announcing the victory of VMRO-DPMNE. Nikola Gruevski remains the prime minister of Macedonia," Zlatko Gorcev, a member of the party's executive committee, told reporters.
"From tomorrow we continue with our obligation to help the citizens," Gruevski said.
The party's main tasks will be to revive the economy, fight unemployment and poverty, and speed up the Balkan country's drive to join the European Union and NATO.
The election commission said on its website that, with 81% of the vote counted, the VMRO-DPMNE had won 39%, and its main opponents, the Social Democrats (SDSM), 32%.
VMRO-DPMNE said it had won 55 of the 123 seats in parliament.
Analysts say VMRO-DPMNE will probably seek as its coalition partner the party that wins the most votes among the ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up one third of Macedonia's two million population.
Some 1.8 million Macedonians voted peacefully despite accusations of fraud and intimidation. VMRO-DPMNE, led by the populist Gruevski, and SDSM accused each other during the campaign of plotting election day violence.
The long-running row between the two parties began in January when the opposition boycotted parliament to protest against a government crackdown on a pro-opposition TV station and three newspapers – leading to Sunday's early election.
VMRO-DPMNE, in power for the past five years, will probably join forces with the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the main party representing the ethnic Albanians, which has been part of the ruling coalition since 2008.
Macedonia, one of Europe's poorest countries, survived the global financial crisis almost untouched, but one third of its people live below the poverty line and, with unemployment above 30%, economic reforms remain a key priority.
The economy grew by 1% last year, and the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast economic expansion of around 3% this year.
Macedonia became an EU candidate state in 2005, but so far it has failed to open membership talks due to Greek objections to the former Yugoslav republic's name (see 'Background').
Athens rejects the name Macedonia because it says it implies territorial ambitions towards Greece's own northern province of Macedonia, birthplace of Alexander the Great.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)
Macedonia first appeared as a country at international level in 1991 after declaring independence from the dissolving Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In official EU documents, Macedonia is referred to as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" due to a dispute over the country's name, which is identical to that of a Greek province.
Macedonia is an ethnic mosaic. Slavic Macedonians represent the largest group (64% of the population). Ethnic Albanians are the second biggest minority (25%), with Turks (3%) and Roma (1.9%) also present.
Ever since the country's independence, integrating the ethnic Albanians has proved a cumbersome process, and the country has come close to civil war.
The August 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, brokered by Western powers, halted the brinkmanship between the Kosovar-Albanian communities in northern Macedonia (organised militarily in the National Liberation Army) and Macedonian forces.
Nikola Gruevski, born in 1970, has been prime Minister of Macedonia since 27 August 2006. Since 2003, he has been leader of VMRO-DPMNE, historically a nationalist party but now affiliated to the cenre-right European People's Party.
- 25 June: Parliament to meet for first time after elections;
- 10 August: Deadline for forming new government.
- RFE/RL:Macedonia Ruling Party Claims Election Victory
- MINA, Macedonia:Macedonians need time to adjust to Reforms
- Deutsche Welle:Macedonia's ruling coalition retains power after bitter election feud
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- EURACTIV Czech Republic:Volby v Makedonii: vládnoucí strana potvrdila vít?zství