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SKOPJE, North Macedonia – The Latest on the presidential election in North Macedonia (all times local):
Returns from North Macedonia's presidential election are giving an indication of which of the three candidates will compete in a runoff early next month.
The May 5 runoff is inevitable because the small European country's election law requires a candidate to get 50% plus one of registered voters, not just voters who cast ballots for president, to be elected in the first round. The state electoral commission reported the turnout Sunday was 39.26%.
With about half of polling stations reporting, Stevo Pendarovski and Gordana Siljanovska Davkova were in a close contest for the most support. Pendarovski, the joint candidate of the ruling Social Democrats and 30 other parties, held a slight lead, with 42.4% of the partial vote to Siljanovska's 41.1%.
The main conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party backed Siljanovska, the first woman to run for president in the country. .
Blerim Reka, a candidate supported by two small ethnic Albanian political parties, had 12.3% of the early returns.
Polls opened early Sunday in North Macedonia for a presidential election seen as a key test for the government following the country's changing its name to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece over the use of the term "Macedonia".
More than 3,400 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and will close at 7 p.m. (1700GMT).
Three university professors are vying for the largely ceremonial presidency post.
Gordana Siljanovska Davkova is backed by the main conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, Stevo Pendarovski is a joint candidate of the ruling Social Democrats and 30 smaller parties, while Blerim Reka is supported by two small ethnic Albanian parties.
A candidate needs 50% plus one vote of the 1.8 million registered voters to win outright in the first round.