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EU hopeful North Macedonia holds presidential elections

Election posters of Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, Monday April 22, 2024.
Election posters of Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, Monday April 22, 2024. Copyright Boris Grdanoski/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Boris Grdanoski/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Accession to the EU and the rule of law are key points in the Balkan country's presidential race.

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Presidential elections are being held on Wednesday in North Macedonia, a small Balkan country that has orbited the European Union for nearly two decades with little to show for its efforts to join the 27-nation bloc.

A second round of voting is almost certain to follow on May 8 - coinciding with parliamentary elections - as no candidate is expected to exceed the 50% threshold required for outright victory.

Seven candidates are running for the largely ceremonial position, with the brief campaigning period focusing on EU accession, the rule of law, fighting corruption and reducing poverty.

The latest poll by the Centre for Political Research and Communications gave opposition-backed Gordana Siljanovska Davkova a 3.6 percentage-point lead over incumbent President Stevo Pendarovski.

Pendarovski, 61, is running for a second five-year term with support from the country's governing social democrats.

Siljanovska Davkova, 70, is backed by the centre-right main opposition VMRO-DPMNE coalition.

The two have differed on how to deal with neighbouring Bulgaria's insistence on Skopje enshrining in its constitution recognition of a Bulgarian ethnic minority. EU member Bulgaria has said it will otherwise block North Macedonia's bloc membership bid.

North Macedonia has been a candidate to join the EU since 2005, but membership talks only began in 2022 and the process is expected to take years.

Other presidential candidates include law professor Biljana Vankovska, running for the leftist party Levica, and two members of the ethnic Albanian minority: Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani, and Arben Taravari from an opposition ethnic Albanian party.

Unless someone wins outright on Wednesday, a second round will be held between the two leading candidates, where turnout must be at least 40% for a valid result.

North Macedonia has 1.8 million registered voters, out of a population of 2.3 million.

The first results are expected early Thursday.

About 320 international observers will monitor the election.

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