Pro-Western party claims victory in North Macedonia election

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AP

The leader of the ruling SDSM party Zoran Zaev speaks after his victory at the North Macedonia general election, in Skopje, early Tuesday, July 16, 2020. A suspected hacking attack caused the site of North Macedonia's electoral commission to crash for hours after polls closed in the country's national elections Wednesday, delaying preliminary results that showed the Social Democrats narrowly leading the center-right opposition.(AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE – A suspected hacking attack caused the site of North Macedonia’s electoral commission to crash for hours after polls closed in national elections Wednesday, delaying preliminary results that showed the pro-Western Social Democrats narrowly leading the center-right opposition.

The commission said early Thursday that with nearly 94% of the vote counted the Social Democrats have 36% and VMRO-DPMNE follow at more than 34%. The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration was third at 11%, while a coalition of two smaller ethnic Albanian parties followed at nearly 9%. The Commission gave no projections on how many seats each party stood to win in the 120-member parliament.

Shortly afterwards, Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev declared victory.

Addressing cheering supporters in the capital Skopje, he promised fast reforms to help the country's European Union accession hopes end revive the battered economy.

Electoral commission head Oliver Derkoski said the suspected hack affected the official website designed to give fast online results. Vote counting was proceeding normally as the commission’s central server was not affected, he said. Derkovski added that police have been informed and will investigate the attack and who might be behind it.

Another official told The Associated Press that “an outside hacker attack spread a virus ... so the public cannot see the results online.”

"Our technical team is working to solve the problem,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The election — delayed for months due to the pandemic — was held amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in the small Balkan country, with voters donning obligatory masks.