Macedonia’s ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) have won a sweeping victory in the first round of local elections and delivered a severe blow to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party that ruled much of the country for more than a decade. Macedonia’s State Electoral Commission late on October 16 reported final results that show the SDSM won outright 37 out of 81 municipalities and has a significant lead in another 13, while the VMRO-DPMNE lost control of 56 municipalities and won in only three rural areas in polls held on October 15. In the biggest prize, the SDSM appears close to wresting control of the capital, Skopje, from the VMRO-DPMNE, headed by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Runoff elections are scheduled for October 29.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who is the SDSM party’s leader, declared victory earlier on October 16 in anticipation of the lopsided results.
“This is what Macedonia looks like when the voting is free, peaceful, and without pressures,” Zaev told his supporters. “Having freely expressed their will, the people sent a message of support for the new government’s policy — a society for everyone, as well as growth and development of the economy.”