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Holding on

June 6, 2011

Macedonia's ruling conservative coalition has emerged as the winner of snap elections. The ballot passed off peacefully, despite warnings of possible election-day violence and bitter political campaigning.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski
Gruevski said he had an 'obligation' to help the peopleImage: MIA

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's ruling conservative coalition claimed victory following snap elections on Sunday.

The country's electoral commission said that, with 81 percent of votes counted, the VMRO-DPMNE coalition had won 39 percent of the vote. Its main rival the Social Democrat SDSM had won only 32 percent.

"The fatherland is in safe hands - Nikola Gruevski remains the prime minister," said Vlatko Gjorcev, a legislator with the coalition.

Macedonian and EU flags flying in the Macedonian capital, Skopje
Joining the EU is one goal to which Macedonia is aspiringImage: Petr Stojanovski

Gjorcev said late on Sunday that he expected the coalition would have about 55 deputies in the parliament, while the SDSM would only have some 35.

Gruveski, whose government is committed to joining both NATO and the EU as well as stimulating economic growth, welcomed the news.

"From tomorrow we continue with our obligation to help the citizens," said Gruveski.

It is expected that the coalition will seek the support of whichever party representing ethnic Albanians wins the most votes. The state electoral commission has said it plans to present its preliminary official results on Monday.

The ballot took place against a backdrop of claim and counter-claim between the coalition and the SDSM.

The VMRO-DPMNE had accused the opposition of planning in advance to allege election fraud - and organize violent street protests - if they lost. The SDSM countered this accusation, claiming that the it was part of a calculated cover-up after voters were intimidated during the campaign.

Irregularities pose a threat

Macedonia has been warned that electoral irregularities would hinder its effort to join the EU and NATO.

Individuals receiving social welfare wait for lunch
The country is among Europe's poorest, dogged by the problem of high unemploymentImage: DW

Macedonia, the poorest former Yugoslav republic and one of the poorest nations in Europe, was not particularly hard-hit by the global financial crisis. Despite this, it has one-third of the population below the poverty line and unemployment of more than 30 percent.

Although the country became an EU candidate state in 2005, it has struggled to progress further because of Greek objections to the country's name, which is seen by Athens as implying territorial ambitions on its own region of Macedonia.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Mark Rossman