"It has been a very quiet election, everything has been proceeding extremely smoothly and dare I say it has been a very dull day," Tim Judah, a journalist for The Economist told Al Jazeera.

He said it was important for Macedonia to have had "a boring election day which passes without any incident".

"Opinion polls were indicating that neither of the candidates will gain an outright first-round victory. It is very likely that there will be a run-off poll in two weeks' with the two top contenders".

Ceremonial post

Seven candidates were running to replace Branko Crenkovski, the outgoing president, and the winner will take office for a five-year term.

The presidency is largely ceremonial, but can be influential in areas such as foreign policy.

George Ivanov, of the ruling conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, and ethnic Albanian leader Imer Selmani are expected to finish first and second.

A further 365 candidates were running for 85 mayoral posts in simultaneous local elections.

Ivanov is expected to fall short of the absolute majority needed to avoid a run-off [AFP]

A first-round victory requires an absolute majority. A run-off between the two leading candidates, if needed, would be held on April 5.

The last opinion poll before the election suggested Ivanov would be backed by about 23 per cent of voters, while Selmani would trail with around 14 per cent.

Ljubomir Frckoski, the main opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) party's candidate, was supported by around nine per cent of the electorate, according to the survey.

Elections in 2008 were marred by clashes between supporters of rival ethnic-Albanian parties, which killed one person and injured at least nine others.

Using the lure of Nato and EU membership, non-governmental organisations launched campaigns titled "Don't shoot your future" in an effort to prevent violence.

Erwan Fouere, the EU special representative to Skopje, addressed Macedonians on the eve of the elections, saying that Sunday's vote "is the last chance not to miss the train again to EU" membership.

Macedonia's hopes of joining the EU and Nato are also threatened by an 18-year long dispute with Greece, which vetoed the country's entry into Nato in 2008 because of the country's name.