Voters in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia overwhelmingly supported a proposed agreement with Greece to settle the long-running dispute between the two Balkan neighbours – but last Sunday’s referendum turnout failed to clear the 50 per cent hurdle needed to make it binding.
Over 90 per cent of those who did go to the polling stations backed the deal, which is designed to end 27 years of acrimony by changing the official name of the country to the Republic of North Macedonia in exchange for the unblocking of longstanding Greek vetoes on eventual membership of the EU and NATO. This was reflected in the referendum question which asked: ‘Are you in favour of European Union and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?’
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the centre-left SDSM has vowed to press on with the Prespa Agreement by obtaining a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the changes. However this appears problematic as the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, with 42 of the 120 seats, remains resolutely opposed to the name change. VMRO’s call for a boycott of the referendum clearly had a major impact in reducing turnout to 36.9 per cent.
Meanwhile Zaev’s Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras (Syriza), will also stand by the deal despite similar nationalist opposition in Greece.
MACEDONIA: REFERENDUM 30 September 2018
Proposal to accept agreement with Greece including change of state name and potential EU and NATO membership
YES 609,427 (91.46 per cent)
NO 37,687 (5.66 per cent)
Invalid or blank votes 19,230 (2.89 per cent)
Registered voters 1,806,336
Total votes 666,344
Turnout 36.89 per cent
Source: State Election Commission, Republic of Macedonia. Full results here.