SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia holds presidential elections Sunday — its fifth since the Balkan country gained independence following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Here are five things to know about the poll and the country.


Southeastern Europe, north of Greece.


Slightly larger than the U.S. state of Vermont. Its population is 2.1 million.


Since gaining independence, Macedonia has struggled to find its place on the international stage. The problem is the country's name: Greece objects to anything outside its borders being called Macedonia, arguing that it suggests territorial claims on Greece. The dispute has led Greece to block Macedonia's efforts to join Western organizations like the European Union and NATO.

Even though all of the major parties agree on Macedonia's aspirations, the question is how to best achieve them.


Current President Gjorge Ivanov, 53, of the VMRO-DPMNER party has presented himself during the campaign as defender of the Macedonia's identity. He said he would never give up Macedonia's name and will seek a referendum for any other proposal.

His main opponent, Social-Democrat Stevo Pendarovski, 51, wants all of the parties to come up with a consensus on the name issue and then negotiate with Greece.


Despite being elected directly by popular vote, the president holds a largely ceremonial position. Sunday's ballot is seen as a test to see whether the dominant VMRO-DPMNE can win general elections April 27 — and hold on to power.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, criticized by opponents for alleged interference in the judiciary and news media, is again staking his re-election on a pledge to form closer ties with NATO and the EU.