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Conservatives Hold Slim Lead in Macedonia Election

Leader of Macedonian ruling party VMRO-DPMNE and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski addresses the media in Skopje, Macedonia, Dec. 12, 2016.

Nearly complete results in Macedonia's national election gave the conservative coalition a slim lead over its left-wing rival early on Monday, though no bloc appeared headed to winning a parliamentary majority on its own.

With 98 percent of polling stations reporting, the conservative coalition led by former prime minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE party had 37.94 percent of the vote, while the leftist coalition headed by opposition leader Zoran Zaev's Social Democrats had 36.63 percent.

Supporters of both big parties were in the streets claiming victory in Sunday's balloting, which saw voter turnout at 67 percent, one of the highest in recent general elections in Macedonia.

Newspapers carried headlines proclaiming victory for both Gruevski and Zaev, while residents said the celebrations by both parties seemed "odd."

The state electoral commission's website, which crashed for an extended period before being restored about 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) Monday, did not give seat projections, but it was certain that neither of the two main coalitions would end up with a majority of seats.

That will make the country's ethnic Albanian parties necessary coalition partners, with probably more than one needed to form a stable government.
Nearly 1.8 million registered voters were eligible to choose 123 lawmakers for the single-chamber parliament.

Three seats are reserved for Macedonians living abroad.