SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia held runoff local elections Sunday that are seen as test for the leftist national government after the center-right opposition won way more municipalities than the ruling Social Democratic Union in the first round of voting two weeks ago.
The main battleground between left and right is the capital Skopje, which accounts for almost one-third of North Macedonia's population of 2 million. Outgoing center-left Mayor Petre Shilegov is being challenged by Danela Arsovska, an independent endorsed by the center-right VMRO-DPMNE party.
Arsovska led with 37.2 % of the vote to Shilegov's 35.1 two weeks ago.
In 2017, Shilegov, the first Skopje mayor from the Social Democratic Union, was elected in the first round with 50.3% of the vote. The left won the right to govern 57 of 80 municipalities that year, while VMRO-DPMNE won only five.
This time around, the opposition party won 21 municipalities to the Social Democratic Union's nine during the first round of voting.
A total of 33 mayors were elected in the first round. Another 47 posts are up for grabs in the second round. Ethnic Albanian parties, including the Democratic Union for Integration, a junior coalition partner in the leftist government, are competing for more than a dozen mayoral posts.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social Democrats, has urged people to vote in large numbers, saying the mayoral race in Skopje is key to implementing his Cabinet vision and policies. Turnout in the first round was 48.9%.
Election authorities have introduced new terminals that use fingerprints to identify voters. There were some issues with voters understanding the system on Oct. 17.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) and are due to close at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT). The first results are expected on Monday.
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