2016-12-13 09:00:00

Macedonia's conservatives win elections despite wiretap scandal

(Vatican Radio)  Officials say Macedonia's governing conservatives have won the country's closely-fought early parliamentary elections, despite a massive wiretap scandal and allegations of corruption and wrongdoing. The state election commission said that the governing VMRO-DPMNE party secured 51 out of 123 seats in parliament in Sunday's vote, while the opposition social democrats took 49 seats.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Though the key Social Democrats opposition leader had urged his supporters to celebrate victory, overnight results showed that the ruling conservative coalition of Nikola Gruevski were in fact the winner of Sunday's vote in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

That surprised friends and foes as it followed scandals. The political crisis began after the opposition accused Gruevski's conservative government of an illegal wiretapping operation that targeted 20,000 people, including politicians, judges, journalists, police and religious leaders.

Gruevski charged that his rival, Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev was guilty of plotting a coup and created the worst political crisis since the country's armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels in 2001.

'Massive theft'

Zaev accused Gruevski of massive theft, social injustice and corruption. Over several months, Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev released audio of dozens of wiretapped phone conversations that he said indicated Gruevski and his aides were involved in multimillion-dollar corruption deals, tampered with election results and brought spurious criminal prosecutions against opponents.

The conservatives vehemently rejected the charges, saying the wiretaps were conducted by unnamed foreign spies.

However Gruevski is under investigation by the country's Special Prosecution branch and has already been charged with enticement and carrying out a criminal act against public order.

Gruevski, who headed the government since 2006 before resigning as part of the deal to hold early elections, sought a new mandate. And now he is smiling once again telling journalists and supporters that "with this results" his conservative coalition "is the winner of this election in Macedonia...and that it is the 10th victory in a row".

Yet it now remains to be seen whether the opposition will accept the results in the Western-backed early elections aimed at ending the political tensions in this Balkan nation of just over two million people.

Whoever does go on to form the next government they will have to seek a coalition partner among parties representing ethnic Albanians, who account for one-third of the population.

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