There was no winner on Sunday in the presidential election in northern Macedonia. Since none of the candidates could muster 50 percent of the votes, a run-off vote on 5 May is required. Stevo Pendarovski, who ran for the ruling Social Democrats, and the non-party, backed by the nationalist opposition party VMRO-DPMNE Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova delivered a neck-and-neck race.
According to the state election commission late Sunday evening was after a census of 80 percent of votes Pendarovski with 42.6 percent just ahead of Siljanovska-Davkova with 42 percent. On the third candidate, supported by two Albanian parties Blerim Reka, accounted for 11.3 percent of the vote.
The previous president, Djordje Ivanov, affiliated with VMRO-DPMNE, was not allowed to return after two terms of office.
The poll was considered as a test election for the government of the Social Democrat Zoran Zaev, after the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had been renamed in February in northern Macedonia.
Siljanovska-Davkova had sharply criticized the renaming during the election campaign, but at the same time declared that he wanted to respect the underlying international agreements.
In turn, Pendarovski had announced its intention to continue the path taken by North Macedonia towards EU and NATO integration. However, the head of state has only a protocol function in northern Macedonia.
With the renaming of the country the name dispute with Greece was settled. Athens had insisted since the independence of Macedonia 27 years ago that its northern neighbor change its name, because a region in the north of Greece is also named.
As an EU and NATO member, Greece had vetoed any rapprochement of Macedonia with the Western alliances. Meanwhile, the accession of North Macedonia to NATO has been initiated.
Voter turnout was stated by the electoral commission at 41 percent. The question may play a crucial role in the run-off election on 5 May. For these, a participation of 40 percent is required for the election to be valid. Some 1.8 million citizens were eligible to vote.