SKOPJE Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov will seek his second term in office in a runoff ballot against an opposition contender on April 27 after the first round on Sunday produced no outright winner.
The second-round vote for the largely ceremonial post will be held together with a snap parliamentary election, called after the ruling multiethnic coalition in the small Balkan country failed to agree on a single presidential candidate.
Ivanov, nominated by the VMRO-DPMNE party of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, captured 52 percent of the votes cast, according to preliminary results by the state electoral commission after counting almost 90 percent of the ballots.
For an outright victory, a candidate must win votes of more than 50 percent of the 1.7 million registered voters, rather than of those who actually cast ballots. The runoff should be held two weeks after an inconclusive presidential election, according to the constitution.
"With this result, the citizens have already said what will happen on April 27, a double victory in the presidential and parliamentary election," Ivanov said after the results were made public.
Stevo Pendarovski, a candidate of the centre-left opposition, captured 37 percent of votes and the other two contenders were far behind.
The deadlock within the ruling bloc started when the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) opposed a proposal by its senior partner, the VMRO-DPMNE party, to re-nominate Ivanov as its presidential candidate.
The VMRO-DPMNE is the single strongest party in parliament and enjoys high popularity among Macedonians.
DUI argued Ivanov was not a "consensual" candidate acceptable to both Albanians and Macedonians. To break the deadlock, the two parties agreed to call a snap election for April 27, instead of a regular ballot due next year.
Ethnic Albanians represent a third of Macedonia's 2 million population. Relations with Macedonians, who are ethnic Slavs, have been tense since an ethnic conflict brought the country to the brink of a civil war in 2001.
Opinion polls suggest that the general election will not significantly change parliament's make-up, given the relatively poor ratings of the main opposition SDSM party.
(Reporting by Kole Casule; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Erica Billingham)