The formation of a new Macedonian government will be a daunting task, observers said after Sunday's elections ended with a near-tie between the ruling party and the opposition.
Political observers suggest that after the Sunday's polls almost ended in a dead heat, a renewal of the past government coalition between the main ruling VMRO DPMNE and its junior ethnic Albanian partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI - although technically possible - is very unlikely.
On the other hand they see little chance that the main opposition Social Democrats, SDSM could gather all Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian parties under one roof in a possible government of their own.
Both of these options lead to a conclusion that the country may have to repeat the elections in near future to resolve the current gridlock. The next opportunity is in May, along with the local elections.
All options look like 'mission impossible'
At a press conference on Monday, the State Electoral Commission, DIK said that the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party won 51 seats in the 120-seat parliament while the main opposition Social Democrats won 49 seats.
The junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, has won 10 seats. The Albanian opposition BESA party has won five seats, the opposition Alliance for Albanians has won three seats, while the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians will get two MPs.
The minimum number of MPs needed to form a new government is 61, which the VMRO DPMNE and DUI currently have.
However, observers say that the DUI, which suffered a tremendous blow at Sunday's voting, winning only half of the votes compared to the last elections in 2014, will now have a very hard time convincing its members to again join the VMRO DPMNE.
"The DUI is vulnerable right now after this political knockdown. We can expect some internal turmoil there. Some information say that some of its MPs and members will strongly oppose the idea for a renewed coalition with VMRO," political analyst and former MP Ismet Ramadani said.
Ramadani said that he sees all current options for forming a government as ‘mission impossible’.
A major reason for the DUI's downfall is attributed to the party's insistence on staying in power over the last eight years with the centre-right VMRO DPMNE whose leader Nikola Gruevski, in the eyes of most Albanians, is seen as a promoter of anti-Albanian policies.
"It will be very hard to renew this coalition because the DUI at these elections received a message from its voters that they are very unhappy from the policies this party had implemented while in coalition with the VMRO DPMNE," said political analyst Mitko Gadzoski.
Analysts say that the DUI's decision will depend much on their calculations for the forthcoming local elections in May. They say that should the DUI enter the government despite Albanians’ discontent, their downfall at the local polls is likely to continue.
Observers suggest that Gruevski, who has been accused of being corrupt and an ethnic Macedonian nationalist, has even less hope of attracting other opposition Albanian parties, which have strongly criticised him during the election campaign.
Insurmountable rifts within the Albanian bloc
The big rift between the DUI and the other three Albanian opposition parties spells trouble for a potential government attempted by the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, according to observers.
Observers say that while in theory, the SDSM could attempt to attract to a coalition all the Albanian parties in parliament, which would result in a total of 69 MPs, it is practically impossible to convince BESA and the other smaller parties to enter an alliance including the DUI, which they hold responsible for its subordination to Gruevski and for cultivating corruption.
BESA already stated on Monday that it has no intention of sharing power with the DUI, nor "with any politicians which are currently being investigated for [high level] crimes by the Special Prosecution."
The opposition Democratic Party of Albanians’ leader Menduh Thaci said that for him, BESA was the moral winner at the elections and he would concede the party's two MPs to BESA so that it can have a better negotiating position during possible talks for a new government.
Whatever the future government, observers agree that it will not be a long-term solution.
"The most probable thing that will happen in the period to come is [the formation of] a government that will not be political. It may be a technical government, it may be a wide coalition [supported by all parties] that will be tasked with preparing new elections, political analyst Nikola Dujovski told 24 News TV.
According to the constitution, the new parliament should be established by the end of this month at the latest.
The deadline for forming a government is February 16.