The – ARMEND NIMANI / AFP
The "yes" largely won Sunday in the referendum marked by a strong abstention organized for the Macedonians decide on the change of name of their country to be reconciled with Greece and dock with Europe.
90.72% of the voters who took part in this advisory vote approved the new name of "Republic of North Macedonia" for their small Balkan state, according to the results of the electoral commission on almost half (43, 57%) of the votes. 6.26% voted against.
Parliament must "confirm the will of the majority"
"I think that the vast majority of citizens who voted have chosen the European way," Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had previously said at a press conference. "More than 90%" of voters approved by referendum Sunday the agreement with Greece to change the name of Macedonia and Parliament must "confirm the will of the majority," said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
However, he did not mention the high abstention, with two-thirds of voters not voting half an hour before the closing of the polls, according to the latest figure provided by the electoral commission. But Zoran Zaev appeared to want to cut off the ground on his opposition which could attack the legitimacy of the election by insisting on this point.
He said he hoped that right-wing opposition MPs (VMRO-DPMNE) "will respect the democratic will of citizens" by ratifying the agreement in parliament. Otherwise, he announced that he would hold "early parliamentary elections". For this ratification by a two-thirds majority, Zoran Zaev and his allies of the Albanian minority parties (20 to 25% of the 2.1 million inhabitants of this predominantly Slavic country) need the defection of ten right-wing deputies.
The promoters of a boycott campaign orchestrated on social networks organized a rally in the evening in front of the parliament. They were about 300, an hour and a half after polls closed. The high abstention can not be explained only by the good weather and the voters of the only diaspora, which would be 3 to 400,000 (on 1.8 million), according to estimates.
"We do not have problems with names or identities here … We have a problem with someone else imposing on us," says Ana Bobinkova Mijakovska, a 47-year-old philosophy professor boycott. This call was relayed by President Gjorge Ivanov, close to the nationalist right, whose role is honorific.
An agreement signed in June
The decision of voters who slipped a "yes" ballot was often carried away by pragmatism rather than enthusiasm. The referendum "will change things if it opens the door to Europe and NATO," said Olivera Argirovska, a 74-year-old nurse from Skopje, the capital.
A poor country that has paid for its isolation from a persistent economic slump, Macedonia intends to integrate these organizations, a promise of stability and prosperity for many. This quest is hindered by the veto of Greece, for which the name of Macedonia is exclusively that of its northern province, around Thessalonica.
In June, Zoran Zaev signed an agreement with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras: if the name of "Republic of Macedonia of the North" were to be adopted, Athens would stop barring membership of NATO and the EU.
During the campaign, it was on this issue that the power insisted, receiving the support of Western officials. On the walls of Skopje, the "yes to a European Macedonia" were posted in red letters.
But the words "Northern Macedonia" did not appear more than in the referendum question: "Are you for accession to the EU and NATO, accepting the agreement" with Greece? .
"I understand what the Macedonians feel (…) is blackmail," said Abedin Memeti, a member of the Albanian minority. "But the EU and NATO are more important for all of us," says the young man who voted "yes".