Published: Tue, October 02, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Macedonians vote in referendum on whether to change country's name

Macedonians vote in referendum on whether to change country's name

It would have helped him win parliamentary support for the required constitutional amendments to move forward.

"I am not happy and I do not know anyone who likes this deal", said 55-year old Danica Taneska, who voted "no". Turnout, though, was far lower than expected.

Opponents to the name change had called for a boycott of the vote and celebrated in the street outside Parliament when turnout figures were announced, chanting slogans and waving flags.

Zaev had earlier voiced confidence that the country would support a yes vote. "But the goal of the referendum is not to test the technical and logistical process how prepared the country is to make the citizens vote, but to test the will of the majority of citizens through a referendum", Osmani said. "It is time for lawmakers to follow the voice of the people and to provide support", Zaev told press on Sunday.

"No better agreement with Greece has been made or could be made and there is no other alternative than our country joining the European Union", he said. He is likely to call early elections if he fails.

The June deal, however, has been openly opposed by Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov, who is allied with the nationalist opposition and had supported calls for a boycott of the referendum.

Russian Federation is against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation picking up another member in a part of Europe that was within its sphere of influence for decades.

"As Macedonia's parliament now begins deliberation on constitutional changes, we urge leaders to rise above partisan politics and seize this historic opportunity to secure a brighter future for the country as a full participant in Western institutions", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

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But chamber president Perrin Beatty said the details of the text needed a closer look before a final verdict could be rendered. The Trump administration officially notified Congress of the U.S. -Mexico trade agreement on August 31.

As the vote heads to parliament, Misha Popovikj, a researcher working at the Institute for Democracy "Societas Civilis" Skopje, said, "it's unknown how many MPs will be in favour and what sort of pressure they'll face". Zaev has been at the forefront of negotiations with Greece's prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

"Tzanakopoulos also referred to a climate of nationalism and distrust stoked by certain camps on both sides of the border and accused both Greece's main opposition New Democracy of gloating over the supposed political success of those in the neighboring country who insist on the name Macedonia, believe themselves to be descendants of Alexander the Great and protested in Skopje yesterday with slogans 'no to the Greek genocide'".

Image copyright EPA Image caption These young voters backed a Yes vote, holding up placards for a "European Macedonia" What has the reaction been? "In turn, this will open the way to membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, to resolve the dispute with Greece, which lasted for decades", - stated in the message.

In a statement late Sunday, Greece's Foreign Ministry said the outcome of the vote will require careful moves to "preserve the positive potential of the deal".

"The government has lost its legitimacy, and the only thing remaining is to respect the will of the people", Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the main center-right opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, wrote on Facebook. "This today is a defeat not only for the agreement with Greece, but for the crime of those who are in power".

It is an emotional moment for a country that has struggled for recognition of its name since its birth in 1991, when the former Yugoslav republic declared independence.

However, under the Macedonian Constitution, if turnout is less than 50 percent, the results of the referendum would not be binding.

A low turnout marred the Macedonia referendum on Sunday as the country went to the polls to decide whether it wants to change its name to "North Macedonia" to end a long-running dispute with Greece. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

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