UPDATES WITH REMARKS FROM TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY
By Admir Fazlagikj and Furkan Abdula
SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AA) – North Macedonia on Sunday ended voting in a presidential runoff as of 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).
Voting in the presidential runoff began at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) to elect the country’s next president for the next five years.
Polls have been opened for a total of 1.8 million eligible voters.
According to the results of the first round held on April 21, the governing Social Democrats' (SDSM) candidate Stevo Pendarovski — won 42.8% of the votes — and opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska Davkova — won 42.2% — vie for the post in the runoff.
Pendarovski is supported by the government and has the backing of 31 political parties, including the Union of Social Democrats of Macedonia (SDSM), the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), AlternAtivA, the Turkish Movement Party (THP), and the Turkish Democratic Party (TDP).
Davkova, the only woman candidate, is seeking the presidency with the support of the main opposition union. She favors cancelling the country’s name change deal.
Sunday's election is the sixth presidential election in the country's modern history, but the first since it made a momentous name change.
Under the law, voter turnout in the runoff must be at least 40% for it to produce a winner.
Last June, the country agreed to change its name in line with a deal under which Greece dropped its objection to North Macedonia joining NATO and the EU.
Since Macedonia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, the nation has had four presidents.
Under the Constitution, a president can be elected for a maximum of two terms.
Turkish Foreign Ministry welcomed the second round of presidential elections held in North Macedonia on 5 May and the fact that it was completed successfully.
“Turkey attaches great importance to the political unity, stability and prosperity of North Macedonia,” a ministry statement said and added: “We believe that the result of the Presidential elections will consolidate peace and stability in the country.”
“Turkey will continue to work to further improve her relations with North Macedonia in every field, and to cooperate with regional countries to strengthen stability and prosperity in the Balkans,” it added.