By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The preliminary data from the State Electoral Commission show that the ruling conservative VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has won 437,665 votes or 39 per cent of the total, after all votes were counted.
However, the main opposition Social Democrats, led by Branko Crvenkovski, have significantly improved over their previous election score, winning 367,876 votes, or 32.78 per cent.
Crvenkovski congratulated his opponent Gruevski for the election victory, but said the opposition comes up much stronger after the polls, doubling the number of legislators it currently has.
“The battle has just begun. Look at what we have accomplished with just 18 legislators and imagine what we can do with 43,” he told the crowd gathered in front of the opposition headquarters in Skopje on Sunday night.
The turnout at the elections was over 63 per cent.
A simulation carried out by the country’s most relevant election monitoring group, the NGO MOST, shows that based on the preliminary results, the ruling party will hold 53 seats in the 123-parliament, while the Social Democrats will control 43.
The VMRO DPMNE currently holds 63 MP seats in the 120-seat parliament, while the opposition has only 18.
In the country’s Albanian bloc, the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, of Ali Ahmeti has remained the strongest party. According to the State Commission, the party won 114,870 votes or 10.24 per cent. Its rival the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, won 66,055 votes or 5.89 per cent.
According to MOST’s simulation, this would mean that the DUI will get 14 legislators and the DPA eight. The only other ethnic Albanian party that passed the threshold to make it to parliament is the National Democratic Rebirth, NDP, of Rufi Osmani with 30,000 votes and an expected two MP seats.
Talks on a forming a government are expected to begin shortly. While the VMRO DPMNE could form a majority government with the DUI, in a replay of the current coalition, it is possible that the DUI and the DPA could gather in coalition with the Social Democrats and form a government, though this scenario is less likely. Sixty-two MPs are needed to form a majority government.
While the strong showing of the Social Democrats was not a complete surprise, the poor showing of several smaller parties was unexpected.
The VMRO People’s Party won over 28,000 votes across the entire country, but since the votes were widely dispersed among the six electoral units, it is unclear if they will manage to win a seat in parliament.
The United for Macedonia party won some 17,000 votes, and has no chance of winning a seat.
These two parties, both centre-right, were expected to snatch a significant portion of the right-wing electorate from the ruling VMRO DMPNE, but this did not turn out to be the case.
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, garnered some 16,700 votes.
Sunday’s early elections were prompted by an opposition boycott of parliament that began earlier this year.