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Macedonia's conservatives claim power in double election

The ruling conservatives of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have claimed victory in parliamentary and presidential elections. The opposition accused the prime minister and his party of buying votes.

A senior member of the VMRO-DPMNE party told reporters that, based on its own count of the votes, the party had claimed the biggest

share of the vote

in both

polls held on Sunday.

With about 80 percent of votes in the parliamentary elections counted, the conservatives led with 43.3 percent. Their closest rivals leftist coalition led by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) - had 23.2 percent.

"I can say that our fatherland is in safe hands. Nikola Gruevski remains prime minister and I can also say...that Gjorge Ivanov remains president," senior VMRO-DPMNE official Vlatko Gjorcev said.

An ethnic party, the Albanian Democratic Union for Integrations, garnered 15.5 percent of the vote, while their main rivals, the Democratic Party of Albanians, has 6.8 percent.

Turnout in the vote was 60.93 percent, according to early preliminary figures, while the turnout for the presidential two-way runoff, which had no ethnic Albanian party candidate, was 50.60 percent. Ethnic Albanians represent about a quarter of the country's 2.1 million people.

In that poll, the conservative-backed President Gjorge Ivanov was in the lead with about 57 percent of the vote, compared with SDMA-backed Stevo Pendarovski's 40 percent.

Intimidation and abuse

Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev has said his party will not recognize the result, accusing the government of using state resources to unfairly enhance their showing in the election.

Zaev has accused the government of systemic abuse of the whole state system for their party interests, putting pressure on civil servants for party purposes, intimidation of private business owners and misuse of both the state broadcaster and private media.

"The government has once again usurped the democratic rights of citizens," Zaev said, calling for an "immediate establishment of (a) technical government that will conduct parliamentary and presidential elections."

The EU and United States officials based the capital Skopje while overseeing the elections have publicly urged leaders to ensure the vote is "credible and transparent."

The parliamentary election came a year ahead of schedule after a split formed within the coalition over agreeing on a candidate for the presidency.

A major issue for the new government is likely to be the resolution of a

dispute with Greece about the country's name.

Athens wants this to be changed because Macedonia is also the name of a northern Greek province, and it has so far blocked the country's efforts to become a formal candidate for EU membership.

The country is provisionally known by the international community as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYR Macedonia.

rc/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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