Northern Macedonia: Social Democrats win narrow election

In northern Macedonia, a Western party seeks to form a coalition government after a narrow election victory.

According to official results, the Social Democrats, led by former Prime Minister Joran Zhao, declared victory on Thursday after winning 36% of the vote with 94% of the ballot.

But the main traditional rivals, the VMRO-DPMNE, are less than two percentage points behind, insisting that they could eventually join the coalition talks and form a government.

There was a two-day early vote in the election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Election Commission website was down after officials stopped voting in an election suspected of being a hacking attack.

The 45-year-old Zhev led the country's effort to end decades of conflict with neighboring Greece, paving the way for the former Yugoslav Republic to join NATO earlier this year.

Coalition talks involve parties representing the Albanian ethnic minority, who make up a quarter of the country's 2.1 million population.

Surrounded by defensive masked party officials, Jew told supporters at a post-election rally: "You are a winner, be proud. Progress has won." He promised to push the country to join the European Union.

International observers will announce the preliminary results of their surveillance mission in northern Macedonia on Thursday.

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