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Macedonia Ruling Party Claims Election Victory

A man rides his bicycle past an upside-down billboard of opposition leader Ljube Boskovski in downtown Skopje

The ruling VMRO-DPMNE party has claimed victory in Macedonia's early parliamentary elections.

Preliminary official results of the June 5 vote showed the party beating the opposition Social Democrats by around 39 percent to 32 percent.

The ethnic Albanian-led Democratic Union For Integration, a partner in the ruling coalition, took more than 10 percent.

Turnout in the vote for the 123-seat parliament was 64 percent of Macedonia's 1.8 million registered voters, according to electoral authorities.

The victory for the ruling coalition sets the stage for Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to have a third term in office.

"We have to quickly solve the problems in the country and to become a NATO and EU member, to do all the important things for our nation and for our dignity," Gruevski said in a victory speech in Skopje.

Gruevski had called the polls a year before the end of his four-year term after the opposition boycotted parliament to protest a government crackdown on a pro-opposition television station.

Issues in the election campaign have included reviving the Balkan country's economy and reducing an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent, and reforms aimed at preparing Macedonia for potential membership in NATO and the European Union.

Macedonia's EU bid has been put on hold due to a name dispute with Greece in a case due to be heard by the International Court of Justice this year.

Macedonians Go To Vote
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WATCH: Macedonians go to the polls (Video by RFE/RL's Balkan Service)