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News 13 Apr 14

Ivanov Takes Lead in Macedonia Polls

Incumbent President Gjorge Ivanov is leading the presidential vote count ahead of his main rival Stevo Pendarovski, preliminary results show.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Incumbent President, Gjorge Ivanov | Photo by: VMRO DPMNE

Preliminary results from Sunday’s first round of presidential election in Macedonia suggest that Ivanov, who is running for a second five-year term for the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, is leading the count, ahead of his main rival, Stevo Pendarovski who is running for the opposition Social Democrats.

The State Electoral Commission, said that more than 99 per cent of the votes have been counted so  far.

Ivanov won 448,776 and Pendarovski 326,090 votes, the preliminary unofficial results of the State Electoral Commission show.

Ivanov leads over Pendarovski in almost all Macedonian towns and in the capital Skopje.

At a press conference this evening, VMRO DPMNE declared victory of their candidate in the first round.

“VMRO DPMNE and Gjorge Ivanov had won. These numbers guarantee a much more decisive victory than our previous prediction... We are counting on even greater support in the second round [in two weeks]” said Vlatko Gjorcev of the ruling party.

Ivanov addressed the public insisting that the elections were peaceful fair and democratic.

“Today the citizens opted for our concept of permanent reforms... of honesty and patriotism”, Ivanov said noting that general elections will take place alongside the second round of the presidential poll.

Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE head Nikola Gruevski said his party reached a  convincing victory.

“This gives us strenght for achieving our ultimate goal in the second round - wining 62 seats [in the 123] parliament,” Gruevski said.

At a press conference the Social Democrats accused of foul play.
 
“Under these conditions of constant blackmails and pressures”, Pendarovski said that his result may be considered a “bravery” on the part of the people.
 
“The fight is not over. I will fight till the last day for the concept, the ideas and values that I believe in” he said.

SDSM head Zoran Zaev accused VMRO DPMNE of  “systematic theft of votes” that “prevented the will of the people”.

The other two presidential candidates, Iljaz Halimi from the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, and Zoran Popovski, running for a new opposition party, Civil Option for Macedonia, GROM are likely to drop out of the race in the second round that takes place in two weeks’ time, on April 27.

According to the State Electoral Commission, Halimi won 38,965 votes while Popovski won 31,363.

Observers say one of the first challenges for the future President will be to ensure a better European Commission report on the country and to lobby for Macedonian admission to NATO ahead of the NATO summit in September in Wales.

Macedonia has made no significant progress towards NATO and EU membership in recent years because of the dispute with Greece over its name.

The dilemma is either to reach an unpopular deal with Greece that would end the blockade, or risk a longer stalemate that could damage the country’s economic and political future.

The second election round of voting in two weeks is deemed more important because, along with the presidential run-off, an early general election will also take place.

In the parliamentary election, the main battle is again expected to be between the candidates of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE and the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM.

The official results from the first round of voting are expected to arrive tomorrow.

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