Early returns from municipal elections being watched as a test of Macedonia’s new left-wing administration indicated Sunday night that voters are backing the government. Results from 30 percent out of the country’s 3,480 polling stations showed the Social Democrat-led led coalition of Prime minister Zoran Zaev leading in 44 of Macedonia’s 81 municipalities, including the capital of Skopje. Candidates from the conservative VMRO-DPMNE led in 13. In the last local elections in 2013, the conservatives won 56 of 81 municipalities, while the Social Democrats won four. “This is a strong punishment for VMRO-DPMNE,” political analyst Gjorgi Spasov said on local TV channel 24. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addressed supporters in front of the government building early Monday, claiming victory and congratulating people for contributing to a “free and fair” vote.
VMRO-DPMNE’s leader, former Prime minister Nikola Gruevski, told supporters at his party headquarters late Sunday that an “atmosphere of fear and intimidation was created and we have reports of voters being bribed.” He added that his party would file complaints alleging voting irregularities.
But he also hinted at a likely resignation as party leader. “The elections are not over yet and the biggest responsibility for the results goes to the leader,” Gruevski said.
Police said that there were some reports of irregularities during voting Sunday but that the overall process was peaceful.