Macedonia election: Conservatives win fragile parliamentary majority

Supporters of the VMRO-DPMNE celebrate after preliminary results in Skopje. 11 December 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Supporters of the VMRO-DPMNE celebrate in Skopje

Macedonia's governing conservatives have won the country's closely-fought parliamentary elections, officials say.

The governing VMRO-DPMNE party secured 51 out of 120 seats in parliament in Sunday's election, according to preliminary results.

The opposition social democrats (SDSM) took 49 seats, the state election commission said on Monday.

The result was expected to be close, with both parties earlier claiming victory.

With just two more seats than the SDSM, the result provides the VMRO-DPMNE party with a very fragile parliamentary majority.

Of the 123 seats in Macedonia's assembly, 120 are elected from six 20-seat constituencies in Macedonia through proportional representation. The remaining three are single-member constituencies representing Macedonians living abroad - these are elected by a first-past-the-post system.

A coalition with smaller parties will need to be formed to create a governing coalition.

Image copyright AP
Image caption SDSM supporters also claimed victory

The polls passed without incident, but the political uncertainty in Macedonia was highlighted when rival parties earlier declared victory.

Supporters of both parties took to the streets in celebration prior to Monday's announcement of the final distribution of parliamentary seats.

Vlatko Gjorcev, a senior official in Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's party, told supporters at the group's headquarters: "We won once again. Tonight, today on December 11, the 10th victory in a row."

Meanwhile SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, quoted by AFP news agency, told a cheering crowd. "We are the winners!"

The result was expected to be close, with Monday's papers from both sides predicting a win.

"Tightest difference ever," read the pro-government Dnevnik newspaper headline, adding: "VMRO-DPMNE's 10th victory."

But a headline from the pro-opposition Sloboden Pecat read: "The government in Skopje has fallen."

There were no exit polls for Sunday's election, which was called two years early as part of a Western-brokered agreement to end a paralysing political crisis.

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