Click photo to enlarge
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's ruling center-right party has won its fourth consecutive general election victory in Macedonia, but looks likely to fall just short of gaining an outright majority. The main opposition Social Democrats have refused to recognize the result.

With 99.9 percent of votes counted Monday, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE had 42 percent and 61 seats — one short of the number needed to get a majority in the 123-member parliament. The Social Democrat-led opposition alliance got 24.9 percent and 34 seats, according to the State Election Commission. Turnout was 64 percent.

In a separate vote Sunday, conservative President Gjorge Ivanov won a second five-year term for the largely ceremonial post, beating Social Democrat opponent Stevo Pendarovski in a runoff.

The opposition has accused Gruevski of state interference in election campaigning — including alleged threats made to civil servants to back the government — and said it would not recognize the results of either poll. It was unclear whether their protests would have any practical effect.

VMRO denied the claims and its supporters celebrated in the streets of the capital Skopje early Monday, waving red party flags.

"Macedonia had peaceful, fair and free elections. Macedonia is the biggest winner. We can be proud," Gruevski told a crowd gathered outside his party's headquarters.

The Vienna based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whose 250 monitors have observed the elections, will present its report later Monday.


Advertisement

Gruevski called the general elections a year early, gambling on the success of his economic stimulus program in this country of 2.1 million citizens.

The stimulus program has helped landlocked Macedonia's 7.9 billion-euro ($11 billion) economy recover from stagnation triggered by the eurozone crisis. In 2013 the economy grew by 2.5 percent and is expected to expand by 3 percent this year. But unemployment remains very high at 28.7 percent.