Macedonia PM admits poll defeat
Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski has conceded victory to the main nationalist opposition party in the general election.
His Social Democrat-led coalition was trailing the VMRO-DPMNE party with more than a third of the votes counted.
Voting on Wednesday passed off relatively peacefully, despite violence during the campaign.
The vote was being seen as an important indicator as to how quickly Macedonia will be able to join the EU.
"The opposition got the most votes and support of the citizens," Mr Buckovski said, adding that he had telephoned leader Nikola Gruevski to congratulate him.
We have to form a government quickly and to focus on what we have promised our citizens
"But Macedonia is the main winner as the citizens showed that they could vote in free and fair elections," he added.
"We want to tell the citizens that we'll be in the parliament to continue to work for Macedonia to be part of the EU integration."
Mr Buckovski's speech - coming an hour after VMRO-DPMNE declared itself the winner - answered the EU's call for a clear and prompt result.
With 36% of the ballots counted, the VMRO-DPMNE party had secured 33% of the vote with Mr Buckovski's Social Democratic Union (SDSM) taking 24%.
At a victory rally in the capital Skopje, Mr Gruevski, the former finance minister, said: "The citizens of Macedonia showed their maturity and made the right decision."
But he warned his supporters that after the celebrations, "work is waiting for us".
"Macedonia lost a lot of time in the last 15 years of transition. We have to form a government quickly and to focus on what we have promised our citizens."
Some 1.7 million people were eligible to vote in what was Macedonia's fourth general election since gaining independence in 1991.
Extra police had bee deployed following violence, mainly within the ethnic Albanian community, during the election campaign.
But while voting appeared to pass off relatively peacefully, the electoral commission did report some irregularities throughout the day.
Ballot-stuffing was reported at a couple of polling stations near the town of Tetovo, and there was an attempt to start a fire at one polling station in Skopje, which was quickly brought under control.
The EU had warned that future membership of the union could be severely delayed if there was serious trouble on polling day.
Macedonia was granted EU candidate status in December 2005.