Voting gets underway in North Macedonia's Presidential elections

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By Katy Dartford
Voting gets underway in North Macedonia's Presidential elections

North Macedonia's two presidential candidates cast their votes on Sunday in the capital Skopje, joining thousands of voters heading to the polls across the country to elect the country's new President.

Right-wing, VMRO-DPMNE party candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova and her main rival of the ruling Social Democratic Union party, Stevo Pendarovski came out as the top candidates in the first round in April.

Analysts have given the advantage to Pendarovski, who is expected to win support from voters of the second largest ethnic Albanian party, whose candidate Blerim Reka came third in the first round.

The long-serving public official and academic was joined by his family during voting in Skopje and said that he expected a "convincing victory," returning his ruling centre-left pro-European Union party for another term of government.

Whilst both candidates are pro EU, Davkova, a university professor, opposes this year's name deal with neighbouring Greece, which will open the door for North Macedonia, previously known as Macedonia, to NATO and EU membership.

She has accused the government of dragging its feet on economic reforms.

At least 40% of enrolled voters need to cast their ballot for the election to be valid.

A turnout of 41.8% was recorded in the first round.

The name change deal, dubbed the Prespa Agreement after the border lake where it was signed last year, ends a 27-year dispute between the two neighbours that had kept the former Yugoslav republic out of NATO and the European Union.

Greece argued that the use of the name "Macedonia" implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name and usurped Greek history and culture, and had blocked its neighbour's efforts to join NATO over the issue.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post in North Macedonia but he or she is the supreme commander of the armed forces and also signs off on parliamentary legislation.