North Macedonia Prime Minister Zaev announces his resignation

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) – Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced his resignation on Sunday evening following the heavy defeat of his ruling Social Democratic Union in the local elections in North Macedonia.

“The responsibility for this result is mine and I am resigning as prime minister and head of the Social Democratic Union,” Zaev said at a press conference at party headquarters.

Zaev spoke out against the early national elections. Instead, he will support a government led by the Social Democrats under a new leader.

Although the official results of the local elections are not yet known, Zaev conceded defeat in the most important contest – the race for mayor of the capital, Skopje, with incumbent President Petre Shilegov losing to a challenger center-right, Danela Arsovska.

Candidates backed by the main opposition party, the center-right VMRO-DPMNE, appeared poised to win at least half of the country’s 80 municipalities, with the Social Democrats expected to win less than 20. In the last elections municipal elections, in 2017, the Social Democrats won 57 competitions and the VMRO-DPMNE only five.

THIS IS A CURRENT UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) – North Macedonia held the second round of local elections on Sunday which are seen as a test for the left-wing national government after the center-right opposition won far more municipalities than the Social Democratic Union in the first round two weeks ago. .

The main battleground between left and right is the capital Skopje, which has almost a third of North Macedonia’s 2 million inhabitants. Outgoing center-left mayor Petre Shilegov is challenged by Danela Arsovska, an independent backed by the center-right VMRO-DPMNE party.

Arsovska led with 37.2% of the vote against 35.1% for Shilegov two weeks ago.

In 2017, Shilegov, the first mayor of Skopje from the Social Democratic Union, was elected in the first round with 50.3% of the vote. The left won the right to rule 57 of the 80 municipalities that year, while the VMRO-DPMNE won only five.

This time around, the opposition party won 21 municipalities against nine for the Social Democratic Union in the first ballot.

A total of 33 mayors were elected in the first round. 47 other positions are up for grabs in the second round. Ethnic Albanian parties, including the Democratic Union for Integration, a junior coalition partner in the left-wing government, are vying for more than a dozen mayoral positions.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, leader of the Social Democrats, urged people to vote in large numbers, saying the Skopje mayoral race is key to implementing his cabinet’s vision and policies. Participation in the first round was 48.9%.

Election authorities have introduced new terminals that use fingerprints to identify voters. There were issues with voters who understood the system on October 17th.

Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. (6:00 a.m. GMT) and are expected to close at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT). The first results are expected on Monday.

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