October 30, 2017 / 3:20 AM / 21 days ago

Macedonia's opposition rejects results of municipal vote

SKOPJE (Reuters) - Macedonia’s main opposition leader cried foul over local election results after gains for the ruling party in a second round of polls on Sunday, and demanded a snap parliamentary vote.

The ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) won in 40 municipalities out of a total 85 in the first round two weeks ago, including in the capital Skopje. Nineteen areas which were undecided on Oct. 16 voted again on Sunday, and the SDSM declared victory in 10. Final results were expected after midnight.

Following the second round, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE’s leader Nikola Gruevski dismissed the results.

“Because of the election violence, raping of democracy ... threats, pressure, massive bribes, the VMRO-DPMNE does not recognise these elections and will never consider them fair and democratic,” Gruevski told reporters.

He said a snap parliamentary vote should be organised by a technical government and demanded the resignation of the head of the state electoral commission and an investigation of the alleged election fraud.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev dismissed Gruevski’s claims and asked VMRO-DPMNE to reconsider its rejection of the results.

“I am hoping they will find the strength (to act) as responsible political subjects,” he told reporters.

After the first round, election monitors of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said fundamental freedoms were respected but that irregularities including violence were also observed.

Zaev took office in May, nearly six months after December elections, ending a two-year political crisis over a wiretapping scandal that brought down the previous government.

His coalition deal with parties of ethnic Albanians, who make up nearly one third of the country’s population, angered nationalists, who stormed the parliament in April after an ethnic Albanian was elected parliament’s speaker.

Macedonia wants to join NATO and the European Union, but it is blocked by Greece which says the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name.

Macedonia, an ex-Yugoslav republic of about 2 million people, avoided violence during the breakup of the former federation in the 1990s but was rocked by an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Andrew Roche

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