The candidate of the ruling parties, Stevo Pendarovski, is slightly leading the presidential vote count in North Macedonia ahead of his main rival, Gordana Siljanovska, preliminary results show.
By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The top two candidates in North Macedonia presidential polls, Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska, are both celebrating after the first round of voting that ended with a practical draw.
Preliminary results from Sunday’s first round of presidential elections in North Macedonia suggest that Stevo Pendarovski, the candidate supported by the country’s ruling parties, is just slightly leading the count, ahead of his main rival, Gordana Siljanovska, who is backed by the right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party.
Pendarovski won 307,562 votes or 42,62 per cent and Siljanovska won 307,404 votes or 42,60 per cent, the preliminary unofficial results of the State Electoral Commission show out of 96 per cent of votes that have been counted.
The turnout was just over 41 per cent, the lowest at any presidential poll since the country gained independence in 1991.
The bloc centred around the main ruling Social Democrats at a press conference on Sunday night declared victory on behalf of their candidate, Pendarovski.
“Our candidate has made a convincing lead, which means that he is headed for a certain victory in the second round of voting”, the Social Democrats secretary general Aleksandar Kiracovski told a press conference.
The opposition VMRO DPMNE at a press conference held on the same evening sounded equally optimistic.
“Results show that you can not go against the will of the people… The results are heralding a new political spring in the country”, said Igor Janushev, VMRO DPMNE’s secretary general.
The third presidential candidate, Blerim Reka, who was supported by two small ethnic Albanian parties, is far behind with 75,163 votes or 10,42 per cent. He is likely to drop out of the race in the second round that takes place in two weeks’ time, on May 5.
“We are very happy with the result, it exceeded our expectations. [by the end of the count] We expect to reach some 80,000 votes… We will not trade with these votes”, Reka told a press conference.
The second election round of voting in two weeks is deemed potentially more problematic because for it to succeed, at least 40 per cent of the total electorate must cast ballots.
Most observers agree this may be hard to achieve, as historically presidential elections attract far less attention than parliamentary elections.
The official results from the first round of presidential voting are expected to arrive on Monday.