Macedonian parliament votes in new government

The Macedonian parliament on Thursday voted in a new government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski after weeks of political turmoil over claims of fraud during April elections.

Gruevski, who is heading the government for the fourth consecutive time, told parliament his cabinet would focus on the economy and trying to join the European Union and NATO.

Inter-ethnic relations, corruption and organised crime were also listed as priorities.

The main opposition SDSM party was not present, having quit the parliament in late May in protest at alleged "irregularities" in the polls on April 27. They have demanded a fresh election.

Gruevski's conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, which has been in power since 2006, has firmly rejected the request.

While election officials said there were no irregularities that could have affected the result, international observers registered "shortcomings" during and after the vote.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) warned of a "blurring of state and party activities and biased and unbalanced media coverage in favour of the ruling party".

Macedonia was granted EU candidate status in 2005, but has yet to obtain a date for a start of accession talks.

It must first resolve a 23-year-old name row with neighbouring Greece, which has blocked its accession to both the EU and NATO, arguing that the name Macedonia implies a claim on the northern Greek region of the same name.