North Macedonians head to polls to elect new president

By Talha Ozturk</p> <p>BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – North Macedonians on Sunday headed to polls to elect the country’s next president for the next five years.</p> <p>The voting began at 07.00 a.m. local time (0500GMT) and will continue till 7 p.m. local time (1700GMT).</p> <p>Sunday's election is the sixth presidential election in the country's modern history, but the first since it made a momentous name change.</p> <p>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. </p> <p>A total of 1.8 million North Macedonians are eligible to cast ballots in the election, which has three candidates — all academics — running for the post.</p> <p>Stevo Pendarovski — who led the opinion polls, but with less than 50% — 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).</p> <p>Gordana Siljanovska 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.</p> <p>Lastly, ethnic Albanian candidate Blerim Reka, a former ambassador, has the support of the Alliance for Albanians party.</p> <p>Under the Constitution, in order to win the elections in the first round, a presidential candidate needs to win more than 50% of the votes. If none does, the two top candidates go to a runoff.</p> <p>Under the law, voter turnout in the runoff must be at least 40% for it to produce a winner.</p> <p>Since Macedonia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, the nation has had four presidents.</p> <p>Under the Constitution, a president can be elected for a maximum of two times. </p> <p> </p> <p>* Zehra Nur Duz in Ankara contributed to this story.