The candidate of the governing coalition in North Macedonia led by the Social Democrats, Stevo Pendarovski, leads the latest poll ahead of the first round of the presidential election on April 21, local media reported citing poll data.
The election is seen as the first test for the governing coalition of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and its junior partner the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, following the signing of the Prespa agreement in 2018. The deal, under which the country was renamed North Macedonia, solves the long-running dispute with Greece and opens the way for Nato and EU integration.
The deal was strongly contested by the main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, whose candidate is Pendarovski's main rival.
38.3% of those surveyed supported Pendarovski and 33.2% would vote for VMRO-DPMNE's candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, poll conducted by Rating agency showed, according to Fokus.
12.6% of those polled said they would vote for Blerim Reka, an independent candidate supported by small ethnic Albanian parties Besa and the Alliance for Albanians.
The poll was conducted in the period between April 8 and April 14 among 1,112 people.
The survey also showed that 39.3% of those polled think that Pendarovski will win, and 26.5% expect a win for Siljanovska-Davkova, while only 6.3% believe that Reka will be the next president.
Most of those surveyed think that Pendarovski is running the most positive campaign, 31%, while 27% and 10% believes that such a campaign has been run by Siljanovska-Davkova and Reka, respectively.
Pendarovski, 55, was the country’s coordinator for Nato accession. He is a professor of political science and a long-term politician seen as having strong integrity. This will be his second run at the presidency. In the previous election in April 2014, Pendarovski, the SDSM candidate, was defeated by incumbent head of the state Gjorge Ivanov, who was supported by now opposition VMRO-DPMNE, which at that time was a strong ruling party.
Siljanovska-Davkova, 64, is a harsh opponent of the Prespa name deal with Greece.
Reka, 58 a law professor and former ambassador to the European Union has a little chance of progressing to the second round.
1.8mn people are eligible to vote in North Macedonia.
If no candidate wins 50% of the votes then a second round will be held on May 5 when the choice will narrow to the two candidates with the most votes. In the second round, the turnout has to be at least 40% or around 723,000.