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North Macedonia is preparing for Wednesday's presidential elections

North Macedonia - presidential elections

Presidential elections will be held in North Macedonia on Wednesday, the seventh since the small Balkan country gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

There will almost certainly be a second round of presidential elections as more than 50% of the country's 1.8 million registered voters are needed for victory. There are warnings that this second round will be held on May 8, the same day when the parliamentary elections will be held.

Participation must be at least 40% in the second round for the result to be valid.
The short two-week campaign period is focused on North Macedonia's progress towards membership in the European Union, the rule of law, the fight against corruption, the fight against poverty and the development of the country's economy, the Associated Press reports.
There are seven candidates in the race for the presidential post.

The two leading candidates, according to opinion polls, are incumbent Stevo Pendarovski, 61, who is aiming for a second five-year term, and is backed by the ruling Social Democrats, and Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, 70, who is backed by the coalition leader of the right-wing opposition, VMRO-DPMNE.

This marks the second time that Siljanovska Davkova is running for the country's president, after losing in 2019 to Pendarovski.

Both candidates have changed their approach to the issue of North Macedonia's membership in the EU.

The country has been a candidate to join the European bloc since 2005, but was blocked for years by neighboring Greece over disputes over the country's name.

This was resolved in 2018, but Bulgaria has since blocked North Macedonia's application for EU membership due to clashes over language and cultural heritage.

Sofia has said that she will remove her veto from North Macedonia's EU membership only if Skopje recognizes the Bulgarian minority with the country's constitution.

EU membership negotiations started, together with co-candidate Albania, in 2022, and the process is expected to last for years.

Pendarovski has called for the constitution to be changed to include the Bulgarian minority, while Siljanovska Davkova insists that negotiations with the EU should take place under a new framework and has not expressed commitment to the issue of changing the constitution.

The fight against corruption is another problem of the country.

One of the presidential candidates, Stevco Jakimovski, has been banned from entering the United States, as he is on the US State Department's list of being involved in corruption.
Jakimovski has not been charged with any crime in North Macedonia, and the State Election Commission has said the US State Department does not affect his eligibility to run for president.

Both Pendarovski and Siljanovska emphasized the fight against corruption in their pre-election campaign.

Other candidates for president are the professor of law, Biljana Vankovska, who is running for the left party, Levica, and the mayor of Kumanova, Maksim Dimitrievski.

Candidates for president of North Macedonia are also two members of the Albanian ethnic minority, the current foreign minister, Bujar Osmani from the Democratic Union of Albanians, which is part of the governing coalition, and Arben Taravari from the Albanian opposition party, the Alliance for Albanians.