Zoran Zaev, leader of the ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), celebrates victory of his party in early parliamentary elections, in Skopje, North Macedonia, July 16, 2020. The ruling SDSM party declared victory early Thursday after the State Election Commission (SEC) data showed that their coalition took the lead in early parliamentary elections. The SEC data suggests that the SDSM-led coalition was ahead with 36.13 percent of votes when 93.96 percent of the total votes were counted. (Photo by Tomislav Georgiev/Xinhua)
SKOPJE, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party declared victory early Thursday after the State Election Commission (SEC) data showed that their coalition took the lead in early parliamentary elections.
The SEC data suggests that the SDSM-led coalition was ahead with 36.13 percent of votes when 93.96 percent of the total votes were counted.
Speaking at a news conference in the early hours of Thursday, SEC spokesman Admir Shabani said the commission cannot give a projection on the number of seats parties have won in the 120-seat parliament.
The coalition led by the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party has garnered 34.65 percent of votes, followed by the Democratic Union for Integration party with 11.57 percent and the Alliance for Albanians and Alternativa with 8.79 percent.
The commission declared that a suspected hacking attack caused the SEC website to crash soon after polls closed on Wednesday evening, delaying preliminary results.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev declared his coalition's victory during a news conference early Thursday.
"Our coalition 'We can' is the winner of these parliamentary elections, the biggest, the most deserved, the most powerful coalition," Zaev said.
Addressing party supporters in Skopje, he declared that "citizens voted for a safe future, unity and solidarity, economic patriotism, order and justice."
Early parliamentary elections in North Macedonia were first set for April 12, but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters arrived at the polling stations wearing mandatory masks.
Polling stations closed at 9:00 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Wednesday, with the election commission saying turnout had reached 50.86 percent (922,678 citizens) 15 minutes before polls closed.
North Macedonia's parties reached an agreement for the April 12 snap parliamentary elections after the country's bid for accession negotiation with the European Union was denied in October last year.
North Macedonia has had a caretaker government since Zaev's resignation as prime minister in January. In February, North Macedonia's lawmakers voted to dissolve the parliament, paving the way for early elections set for April 12.
SEC spokesman Shabani told the news conference that the number of parliament seats will be revealed on Thursday, after all voting data is processed.