Macedonia's opposition Social Democratic Union has challenged the results of the country's weekend parliamentary elections, in a bid to overturn a narrow win by the conservative ruling party.
The Social Democrats on December 13 filed complaints about voting irregularities that were echoed by a new ethnic Albanian party, the Besa, which reported alleged violations that could change the outcome of the vote.
The state elections commission said the two opposition parties lodged complaints on the electoral process at 16 polling stations, demanding a repeat vote in those places.
Zoran Zaev, leader of the leftist Social Democrats, said that, by his calculations, each of the main parties should have received 50 seats in parliament.
Zaev said official results announced on December 12 differed significantly from figures provided by his party's observers at polling stations in a northwestern region mostly populated by ethnic Albanians.
Former Macedonian prime minister and leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party Nikola Gruevski celebrates elections results with supporters in Skopje on December 12.
The official results gave the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party of former Prime Minister Nikola 51 of parliament's 120 seats and the Social Democrats 49.
The margin of difference between the two parties was razor-thin -- around 18,000 votes out of 1.7 million registered voters.
While short of a majority, the conservatives were expected to form a governing coalition with their previous junior partner, an ethnic Albanian party that won 10 seats.
A senior VMRO-DPMNE official responded to the opposition challenge by accusing Zaev of trying to cheat voters.
"[Zaev] and those around him should know that they are playing with the people's patience, and if someone tries to steal their victory, patience will turn into anger," Vlatko Gjorcev said.
The early election was called as part of a Western-brokered deal to defuse a two-year political crisis sparked by a massive wiretapping scandal.
The opposition blamed Gruevski for an illegal wiretapping operation targeting more than 20,000 people.
Gruevski -- who has governed Macedonia for most of the past decade -- denied any wrongdoing, blaming the wiretaps on "foreign spies."
President Gjorge Ivanov voiced hopes on December 13 that the election "will contribute to ending the political crisis and will be the beginning of national reconciliation in the country."
The newly elected parliament should convene by the end of this month, and the new government must be formed by the end of January.
With reporting by AP and dpa