Early parliamentary elections start in North Macedonia amid COVID-19 epidemic

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SKOPJE, July 15 (Xinhua) — North Macedonian citizens are voting on Wednesday in early parliamentary elections following strict health rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1.8 million eligible voters will choose among 1,578 candidates from 15 coalitions and parties, according to the State Election Commission (SEC) official data.

The SEC declared that over 2,000 domestic and foreign observers will monitor the early parliamentary elections.

The 20-day electoral campaign, during which political parties and forces presented their programs and candidates to the citizens across the country, ended on Sunday.

The most fierce competition in the elections is expected to be seen between the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) led by former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party headed by Hristijan Mickoski.

Based on safety protocols set by health authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this year’s elections took place on Wednesday, instead of Sunday as before, and the voting, which started at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT), will last until 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) to avoid crowding.

According to the recommendation of the Infectious Diseases Commission, people will have to keep social distancing at polling stations, use disinfectant before and after casting their ballots, and wear protective masks during the voting process.

The SEC said Tuesday that a total of 723 COVID-19 patients and people in self-isolation voted on Monday.

On Tuesday, 7,861 patients, 1,235 inmates and 234 people in nursery houses cast their ballots.

All votes will be counted when the entire election process ends, according to the SEC.

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