The ruling center-right VMRO-DPMNE party led by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski won 51 seats in the election, the largest proportion of any party in Macedonia's 120-seat parliament.
In a tight-run affair, SDSM came second with 49 seats, followed by the country's largest Albanian political party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which got 10 seats.
Gruevski had expressed willingness to support the SDSM in government if Zaev pledged to reject the "Tirana Platform," an initiative sponsored by the Albanian government to increase Albanian influence on Macedonian politics.
In late December, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama invited the leaders of four Albanian parties in Macedonia to Tirana for a meeting at which they formulated a so-called "Albanian Platform," under the auspices of Tirana.
The four-pronged platform calls for the Albanian language to be granted official status in Macedonia, judicial reform, EU membership and NATO membership, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti told Dnevnik.mk.
Tirana's attempt to destabilize Macedonia has been echoed by US politicians too. In February, chairman of the US Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Dana Rohrabacher told Albanian TV Channel Vizion Plus that the country should be portioned, and "Kosovars and Albanians from Macedonia should be part of Kosovo."
Albanians are the largest minority ethnic group in Macedonia, and are a majority in some western regions. Their population has increased rapidly over the past century. According to a 1953 census, there were 870,000 Macedonians and 163,000 Albanians in the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In 2002, there were 1.3 million Macedonians and 509,000 Albanians.
Opposing the Tirana Platform as a step towards the partition of Macedonia "along ethnic lines, via cantons and federal units," Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE called on the SDSM to reject a political alliance with Albanian parties who are implementing Tirana's plans for the eventual carving-up of Macedonia.
Meeting with President Ivanov on Monday, SDSM leader Zaev had gained the backing of 67 deputies in the Macedonian parliament, 13 of them from deputies of the Albanian parties.
They reportedly agreed to back him after Zaev agreed to support a bill making Albanian the country's second official language. However, this and other ambitions contained in the Tirana Platform are unacceptable to the VMRO-DPMNE, which is close to Ivanov and holds a plurality of parliamentary seats.
Ivanov's refusal to give Zaev a mandate to form the government was criticized by EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, who tweeted that the President should "respect the outcome of recent elections."
Aleksandar Pavic of Belgrade's Center for Strategic Alternatives told Sputnik Srbija that the EU's call is a demonstration that the EU "still behaves like an appendage to globalist Washington, and is working hand in hand with NATO."
Earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on "the authorities in Skopje to fulfil the next step in the democratic process," and said the alliance "remains committed to the membership of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the Alliance."
Given its desire for the Republic of Macedonia to join NATO, the country's destabilization would be an acceptable outcome for the alliance, Pavic said.
"That's not a bad outcome as far as NATO is concerned. Even if blood runs through the streets of Macedonia, that would be just fine and acceptable for NATO. Of course, they want to prevent NATO's biggest fear, that is leaving a vacuum for even a shred of Russian influence to enter," Pavic said.
"This open interference shows that they are in a hurry to do as much as they can and present the new administration with a fait accompli wherever possible. In Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro … here we see the globalist project that has tried to rule for the last 25 years."
Pavic commented that the destabilization of the Republic of Macedonia would cast doubt on any possible involvement in the Turkish Stream gas project, or China's plans to build a fast train between Thessaloniki and Budapest.
"An unstable Macedonia prevents either of these projects," Pavic said.