Fri, 24 May 2019

SKOPJE Voting has ended in North Macedonia, where three candidates competed on April 21 to become the small Western Balkan nations president.

Results on the State Election Commission website -- based on 74 percent of the votes counted -- showed pro-Western candidate Stevo Pendarovski in the lead with 42.6 percent of the votes.

His main rival, opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, came second with 41.6 percent of the votes for the largely ceremonial post.

Stevo Pendarovski

The two are expected to face each other in a runoff on May 5.

The country's election law requires a candidate to get 50 percent plus one of registered voters, not just voters who cast ballots for president, to be elected in the first round.

Blerim Reka, candidate of the second-largest Albanian party, came third with 11.5 percent of the votes.

The turnout was 40 percent of the 1.8-million voters, election officials said.

Pendarovski, the country's coordinator for NATO accession, is backed by the ruling Social Democrats. He is a former national security adviser to two previous presidents.

Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova

He strongly supported the name deal with Greece, asserting that it would help pave the way for North Macedonias entry into NATO and increase hopes of joining the European Union in talks scheduled to begin in June.

Incumbent Gjorge Ivanov is not eligible to run again after serving two terms.

Though the office has limited powers, the president has the final signature on legislation and is the leader of the army.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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