December 26, 2016 / 11:50 AM / 7 months ago

Rival parties vie for power after Macedonia poll rerun

2 Min Read

A man votes at a polling station during a re-run of the December 11 election in Tearce village, Macedonia, December 25, 2016.Ognen Teofilovski/Files

SKOPJE (Reuters) - A political crisis in Macedonia looks likely to extend into a third year after its two main parties both said they would try to form the next government following a disputed election.

Veteran leader Nikola Gruevski's nationalist VMRO-DPMNE won 51 out of 120 parliamentary seats in the mid-December vote. But the Balkan state's electoral commission ordered a re-run at a single polling station after accepting that one woman had been prevented from voting there.

The commission confirmed the original result around midnight on Sunday.

The party with most votes would normally get the first chance to form a government, and the VMRO-DPMNE said that would be its next task.

But the opposition social democrat SDSM party, which won 49 seats and whose complaint had led to the re-run, said it too would look to govern.

"The new government will be led by SDSM... Macedonia will have a responsible government... that will bring democratic changes," a party spokesman said.

The country's political crisis erupted in early 2015 when the SDSM accused Gruevski's administration of wiretapping the phones of tens of thousands of citizens.

Dogged by the accusation as well as claims of corruption against his government, Gruevski stepped down in January 2016 and handed over to a caretaker administration under an EU-brokered deal.

Albanians make up about a third of the 2.1 million population of the landlocked former Yugoslav republic, and in December's ballot they shifted towards the Social Democrats in significant numbers for the first time since an interethnic conflict in 2001.

But the main ethnic Albanian party, DUI, won 10 seats, putting it and the VMRO in a position to reform their former ruling coalition, albeit with a significantly reduced majority.

Parliament is expected to reconvene by the end of December and the new government should be in place by February.

Reporting by Kole Casule; editing by John Stonestreet

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