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North Macedonia pro-Western candidate wins first round of presidential poll

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North Macedonia pro-Western candidate wins first round of presidential poll
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Reuters
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North Macedonia's pro-Western candidate has narrowly won the first round of a presidential poll which comes amid deep divisions over the country's name change under a deal with Greece.

Stevo Pendarovski won with 42.6% of the votes, according to results on the State Election Commission website, which is based on 74% of counted votes.

Reuters
Ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia's candidate Stevo PendarovskiReuters

Pendarovski's rival opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova came second with 41.6% of the vote. They will face each other in a run-off vote on May 5.

However, the State election commission put voter turnout at just 39%.

Pendarovski is a candidate from the governing SDSM coalition and a former adviser on national security in the Presidential Cabinet. He has adopted the campaign slogan of 'Together Forward' and is attempting to mobilise support across the ethnic divides of North Macedonia.

Pendarovski is a firm supporter of the Prespa Agreement, the accord which saw the Republic of Macedonia become North Macedonia, which could see the country gaining membership in NATO and the EU.

His pro-European message is being countered by Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, the candidate from the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE. The University Professor is playing to a significant crowd of Macedonians who are against by the Prespa Agreement, adopting the slogan 'Justice for Macedonia'. She has called for the Prespa Agreement to be changed and has called it “degrading”.

Election campaign posters of Gordana Dafkova-Siljanovska

However, analysts have said the low voter turnout on Sunday reflects the disillusion among young voters about the government's failure to tackle high unemployment and attract foreign investment.

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