North Macedonia's presidential candidates, Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, will face off in the second round of the election after neither managed to win enough votes for a clear victory in the first round held on Sunday, the country's election commission said.
With 98 percent of the ballots counted, Pendarovski, the candidate of the centre-left Social Democratic Union (SDSM), won 42.6 percent of the vote, taking a slim lead over Siljanovska-Davkova of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, who won 42.3 percent.
The vote on Sunday was marked by the lowest turnout since the country’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, with only 41.9 percent of North Macedonia’s 1.8 million electorate casting ballots. A candidate must win at least 50 percent plus one of registered voters to be elected in the first round.
This is the first election to be held since the country changed its name to North Macedonia after the country’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, and his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, agreed on the issue last June, helping jumpstart Skopje’s bids for EU and NATO membership which had stalled for years due to Greece’s veto over the name dispute .
North Macedonia’s outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov of the VMRO-DPMNE, opposed the historic deal signed by Zaev, saying it gave “too many concessions” to Greece, and calling it a “capitulation” of Macedonia.
Although Siljanovska-Davkova said she would respect the name deal with Greece, she also called for further negotiations on the matter.
The run-off is scheduled for May 5.