Macedonia’s ruling conservatives win third term
Macedonia's conservative ruling party has secured a third term in office, winning parliamentary and presidential elections, based on preliminary results the opposition said it would not recognise.
With 63 per cent of the votes counted after Sunday's election, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE was leading with 43 per cent, compared with 24 per cent for the main opposition party, the centre-left SDSM.
Incumbent President Gjorge Ivanov also was leading the SDSM-backed challenger.
"This is a big, huge and strong victory. The people have clearly expressed their will," Gruevski, who has ruled the former Yugoslav republic since 2006 in coalition with the ethnic Albanian party DUI, told a cheering crowd.
The DUI had captured 14 per cent, setting the coalition on course for a comfortable majority in the new parliament.
But SDSM leader Zoran Zaev accused Gruevski and his party of "abusing the entire state system", saying there were "threats and blackmails and massive buying of voters".
"A few minutes after the polls closed, I'm here to say that SDSM and our opposition coalition will not recognise the election process, neither the presidential nor the parliamentary," Zaev said.
Gruevski, 43, and his party dismissed the opposition allegations as an attempt to manipulate public opinion.
"I'm sorry that besides our clear victory, the leader of the opposition for his personal interest has decided to ignore the will of the people. I hope he'll sleep on it and will decide to change the decision," he said.
Opposition parties have long accused Gruevski of creeping authoritarianism and corruption. Foreign diplomats in Skopje say there are concerns about media freedom and political pressure on journalists.
Gruevski has said any complaints of authoritarianism come from opposition parties that lack a concrete political programme to unseat him.