International election monitors say the second round of local elections in Macedonia was “competitive” and “democratic.”
Observers from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement on October 30 that there were “reports of isolated incidents of the misuse of state resources and vote-buying,” but added that the reported irregularities do not hamper the overall election process.
“The respect for fundamental freedoms contributed towards the conduct of democratic elections,” said Audrey Glover, head of the ODIHR election observation mission.
Preliminary results from the October 29 runoff show that candidates supported by the ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) won in 57 of Macedonia’s 81 municipalities, including the capital, Skopje.
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party won only five municipalities, including four in rural areas.
Turnout was 67 percent.
VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski said on October 29 that his party would not recognize the results “because of the election violence, raping of democracy...threats, pressure, [and] massive bribes.”
Gruevski, a former prime minister of Macedonia, demanded that a snap parliamentary vote be organized by a technical government.
He called for the resignation of the head of the state electoral commission and for an investigation into the alleged electoral fraud.
Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev rejected Gruevski's allegations, saying, "I am hoping they will find the strength [to respond] as responsible political subjects."
If confirmed, the SDSM’s sweeping victory would deliver a severe blow to the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party that ruled much of the country for 11 years.
Zaev’s SDSM had sought a solid show of support as it looks to speed up the small Balkan state's bid for membership in NATO and the European Union.
The party formed a ruling coalition with the ethnic Albanian DUI earlier this year in a move that ousted the VMRO and ended a three-year governmental crisis.