Polling stations opened on Sunday in Macedonia’s presidential runoff with conservative and leftist rivals facing each other in the race seen as a crucial test of the Balkan country’s democracy, a key condition in its bid to join the European Union.
Governing VMRO-DPMNE party candidate George Ivanov, who came first with 35 per cent of the first round vote two weeks ago, is considered the favorite, according to opinion polls.
The other candidate is Ljubomir Frckoski of the main opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM), who picked up 20 per cent of voter support on March 22.
Some 1.8 million eligible voters are to choose a new president with a five-year mandate. For the election to be valid, the voter turnout needs to surpass 40 per cent.
The elections are seen as critical to Skopje’s bid to join the EU and NATO, the world’s largest military alliance, after a violence-marred parliamentary vote last year.
The elections take place amid tight security in order to avoid violence that marred last year’s legislative vote, and will be monitored by some 7,000 local and more than 500 foreign observers from international organisations.
Polling stations will close at 7 pm (1700 GMT), with preliminary result later in the night.