It is mission accomplished in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the leader of the main nationalist opposition. But election victory for Nikola Gruevski meant despair for the Social Democrats of Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski who quickly conceded defeat. There was tangible relief that Wednesday’s vote passed off peacefully after what was a sometimes violent campaign. President Branko Crvenkovski is aware the international community has been watching. “I hope we will earn positive remarks from Brussels, which will enable Macedonia to continue on its path to the EU and NATO,” he said.
Living in one of Europe’s poorest countries, voters also had other priorities as they cast their ballots. “I expect a change in government because the poverty is unbearable,” said one man. The Social Democrat-led administration had been criticized for failing to improve the economy. Another voter said she was hoping for higher pensions, more jobs and higher salaries. Given EU candidate status last December, Macedonia hopes its chances of entering the bloc will have been boosted by this ballot. As for the winning party, it now faces the task of forming a stable coalition.