Turnout, ethnic Albanian vote key in North Macedonian polls

A woman checks lists before voting for the presidential election at a polling station in Skopje, North Macedonia, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Polls were opened early on Sunday in North Macedonia for presidential elections seen as key test of the government following deep polarization after the country changed its name to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece over the use of the term "Macedonia". (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia is heading for a presidential election runoff with both candidates more or less tied and the outcome potentially determined by an ethnic Albanian candidate eliminated in Sunday’s first vote.

The governing center-left party’s candidate, Stevo Pendarovski, and conservative Gordana Siljanovsa will face off on May 5. According to the latest results released Monday, Pendarovski got 42.85% of the vote and Siljanovska 42.24%.

Ethnic Albanian Blerim Reka came third with 10.57%. He has not said whether he will back either candidate in the May 5 election. About one in four Macedonians is ethnic Albanian.

Turnout is also crucial because if it falls below 40% of registered voters the presidential election is considered invalid and must be held again from the beginning in two rounds. Sunday’s turnout was 41.8%.

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