Polling closed at 7 p.m. local time (1700 UTC) on Sunday following the first round of North Macedonia's presidential election, which has been overshadowed by the country's name change deal with Greece.
Turnout was around 40% — the lowest since North Macedonia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991 — making a runoff vote between two pro-EU and pro-NATO candidates on May 5 inevitable.
What you need to know:
- Preliminary results showed that the governing Social Democrats' (SDSM) candidate, Stevo Pendarovski, had won 42.85% of votes cast.
- Nationalist VMRO runner Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, a critic of the name deal, won 42.24%.
- Blerim Reka, the candidate backed by two ethnic Albanian parties, won around 11%.
- The country's electoral law requires a candidate to win support from more than 50% plus one of registered voters to win outright in the first round.
- Roughly 1.8 million voters were eligible to vote at more than 3,400 polling stations.
North Macedonia name change both heals and divides
Who is Stevo Pendarovski?
The 56-year-old is an ex-national security adviser who ran for the presidency in 2014. The Social Democrats, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union and 29 smaller parties back him. He supports the deal with Greece.
Who is Gordana Siljanovska Davkova?
The main conservative opposition party's candidate is the first woman to win a presidential nomination since independence. The 63-year-old supports EU and NATO membership but opposed the accord with Greece.
Who is Blerim Reka?
The ethnic Albanian candidate, 56, is backed by two small ethnic Albanian opposition parties, BESA and the Alliance of Albanians. The former diplomat supports the name change deal. Read more:
Greece-North Macedonia 'selfie diplomacy' warms relations
Why the name change?
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia wanted to call itself Macedonia. Greece feared that name could give its northern neighbor a claim to the Greek province of Macedonia. Both countries agreed on the compromise, North Macedonia, in June 2018. That paved the way for the country to start accession talks with the EU and NATO. Read more:
Macedonia: What's in a name?
Who is the current president?
The outgoing nationalist president, Gjeorge Ivanov, was first elected in 2009. His second term has been controversial because he refused to sign several laws, including one that expands the use of the Albanian language. The role is largely ceremonial. mm, amp/jm (AFP, Reuters) Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.