With the stakes high, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia went to the polls today. And who wins the parliamentary ballot is far from the only issue.
National hopes of EU and NATO membership are also in the balance – putting pressure on authorities to ensure the vote is free and fair.
The ruling Social Democrats of Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski are seeking a new mandate but they face a stiff challenge from an opposition promising the economic revival the government has been unable to provide.
Posing a significant threat is Nikola Gruevski of the grandly titled Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for Macedonian Unity. It has tried to shed its nationalist image – rebranding itself as reformist.
In all, over 30 political parties and coalitions are involved in the contest for the 120 seat parliament in Macedonia, which remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.