North Macedonia: Social Democrats score narrow election win

SKOPJE, NORTH MACEDONIA (AP) — A pro-Western party in North Macedonia is poised to try to form a coalition government following a narrow election victory.

The Social Democrats led by former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev declared victory yesterday after receiving 36 per cent of the vote with 94 per cent of ballots counted, according to official results.

But main conservative rivals VMRO-DPMNE were less than two percentage points behind and insisted they could ultimately prevail in coalition negotiations and form a government.

The election involved two days of advance voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state electoral commission suffered a website outage after polls closed in what officials described as suspected hacking attack.

Zaev, 45, led the country’s effort to end a decades-long name dispute with neighbour Greece, clearing the way for the former Yugoslav republic to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) earlier this year.

Coalition talks will involve parties representing the country’s ethnic Albanian minority which makes up nearly a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.

Surrounded by party officials wearing protective masks, Zaev told supporters at a post-election gathering, “You are winners, be proud. Progress has won.” He promised to continue the country’s push to join the European Union (EU).