Macedonia’s nationalists, Social Democrats, almost tied in parliamentary vote

Supporters of the opposition Social Democrat SDSM shout party slogans as votes are counted. Skopje, 11 December. [Reuters]

Macedonia’s nationalist VMRO-DPMNE and opposition Social Democrats were virtually tied in a Sunday (11 December) election aimed at ending a two-year-long crisis which brought down the previous government, state election commission preliminary results showed.

The centre-right VMRO-DPMNE of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (EPP-affiliated) won 37.96% of the vote, while the Social Democrats, or SDSM, of Zoran Zaev won 36.65%, the Commission said on its website. The results are based on the counting of nearly 98% of the votes.

A final result is expected around midday today (12 December).

The Association Most election monitor said that the race was too close to give estimates of each party’s number of seats in parliament.

“The two leading parties according to the number of votes won are too close to each other, and this difference in the number of votes won influences the deployment of the seats, depending on the margin of error,” Most said in a statement early this morning.

The parliamentary elections came almost a year after Gruevski stepped down as prime minister in a European Union-brokered deal to end a crisis over a corruption scandal in the landlocked nation of 2.1 million people.

Macedonian political parties agree December election after spy scandal

Macedonia’s political parties agreed yesterday (31 August) to hold an early parliamentary election on 11 December in a step to resolve the 18-month-long crisis over a wiretapping scandal.

Gruevski’s main challenger, Zaev, accused the government last year of wiretapping tens of thousands of citizens and released recordings appearing to implicate the government in corruption. Gruevski has denied any wrongdoing.

Wiretap scandal threatens democracy in Macedonia

Fourteen years since NATO pulled Macedonia from the brink of civil war, the ex-Yugoslav republic once hailed as a success-story of Western intervention is embroiled in a scandal that critics say has exposed its democracy as hollow, and could potentially reopen a dangerous ethnic divide.

The VMRO-DPMNE party has ruled on its own or as the major coalition party since 2006, until the installation of a caretaker government and the calling of early elections last January.

The SDSM was celebrating what it said was its victory in bigger cities on Sunday night.

“The regime fell. The entire world should understand that we wrote history today,” Zaev told supporters in front of the government building in Skopje.

Gruevski claimed victory for his party.

“VMRO-DPMNE is the winner of these elections. Today, VMRO-DPMNE won, but also Macedonia won,” he told supporters in Skopje.

Whoever forms the government will have to seek a coalition partner among parties representing ethnic Albanians, who account for one-third of the population.

Irregularities

Early elections were postponed twice in Macedonia after the opposition boycotted them, demanding measures to ensure voting would be free and fair.

Macedonian opposition to boycott EU-mediated elections

Macedonian lawmakers voted yesterday (18 January) to dissolve parliament next month ahead of an early election in late April, in line with an EU-backed deal to end a political crisis but under threat of a boycott by the main opposition.

“I am hoping that this madness will stop after the election. I hope a better party will win,” said unemployed 52-year-old Orde Serafimovski, casting his vote earlier in the day.

The European Union had long criticised Gruevski’s record on democracy and the rule of law, but also needs Macedonia’s cooperation to help contain the bloc’s migration crisis. The country sits on a major migration route into the bloc.

Macedonia is a candidate to join the European Union, but has never begun accession talks, partly because of criticism of its reform record and an entrenched dispute with neighbouring EU member Greece over the name Macedonia, which also belongs to a northern Greek province.

Skopje and Athens are ‘brothers in crime’ on Macedonia name dispute

The stalemate on the Macedonia name dispute between Athens and Skopje is a “lose-lose game”, and the two governments are “brothers in crime" on the issue, says Radmila Šekerinska, vice president of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. EURACTIV Greece reports.

Eleven parties and coalitions ran for election, including four representing the ethnic Albanian community. An Albanian party traditionally joins a coalition government as the junior partner.

Füle: If the EU disengages from the Balkans, others will engage ‘immediately’

Former Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle told an audience today (7 December) that if the EU distances itself from the Western Balkans, other geopolitical players will immediately seize the opportunity to assert their influence over the region.

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