Macedonia local elections to test new left-wing government

Macedonia's left-wing government faces a strong test in this weekend's municipal elections, five months after it came to power amid an acute political crisis following a decade of conservative rule.

The first round of the vote is scheduled for Sunday, with over 1.8 million registered voters choosing mayors and members of local councils in the capital, Skopje, and another 80 municipalities. The re-run is on Oct. 29.

Opinion polls show a slight advantage for the governing Social Democrats, particularly in Skopje where its candidate mayor is 2.6 percent ahead of the conservative incumbent.

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE main opposition party is seeking to defend its dominance on a local level. They won 56 of 81 municipalities in the last elections in 2013, when the Social Democrats won four.