IVANOV NEW MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT
Macedonian voters elected Professor Gjorge Ivanov as their fourth president since the country declared independence in 1991. Supported by the ruling VRMO-DPMNE-led coalition, Ivanov won 437,470 votes, while SDSM candidate and fellow professor Ljubomir Frckovski -- ironically, a former co-author of Ivanov's -- took 252,195 votes, with nearly 97% of the ballots counted.
The first unofficial results for local elections showed the VMRO-DPMNE winning 31 mayoralties in the runoff (on top of 24 in the first round). The SDSM and two independent candidates it supported won nine, while the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) emerged with eight. The opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) won the key city of Tetovo.
The VMRO-DPMNE took the mayoralty of the capital, Skopje. Huge electoral battles raged in several major cities like Ohrid, Centar, Resen and Struga, where new mayors' victory margins amounted to mere dozens of votes.
In his victory speech, Ivanov said his main priorities are NATO and EU integration and resolution of the "name issue with Greece", as quoted by Reuters.
The strong support for the VMRO-DPMNE "feels not like a victory but rather like the [creation of an] obligation towards all citizens", said party leader and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who thanked outgoing President Branko Crvenkovski for co-operation "despite our disagreements". The VMRO-DPMNE congratulated voters for participating in fair, democratic and peaceful elections and emphasised they were crucial to NATO and EU integration.
Frckovski also congratulated the winners, while SDSM leader Zoran Zaev emphasised the VMRO-DPMNE now has absolute power but also absolute responsibility. The SDSM initially echoed the VMRO-DPMNE in praising the conduct of the elections. However, later in the night, it raised allegations of unfairness: electoral-list problems, intimidation and inappropriate use of UV lamps meant to prevent citizens from voting twice.
The 43% voter turnout is the lowest in Macedonia's history of presidential runoffs. International monitors from the OSCE/ODIHR expressed initial satisfaction with the calm elections but were still awaiting full reports from teams throughout the country.
One noticeable characteristic of the runoff was low turnout in Albanian-dominated areas, with relatively few voters making a presidential choice. An official of the DUI -- the ethnic-Albanian party within the ruling coalition -- said the party supported Ivanov but the decision lay with the voters.
Some experts said the absence of support by ethnic Albanians will be a serious handicap for Ivanov.