Macedonia vote brings back Cold War fears

02 October, 2018, 22:49 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • A woman holds a “Yes” poster during a rally in Tetovo Macedonia on Sept. 27 before this weekend’s referendum on changing Macedonia’s name

At the time, Athens kicked up a major fuss, accusing Skopje of stealing the name of its own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.

The deal with Greece has faced vociferous opposition from a sizeable portion of the population on both sides of the border, with detractors saying their respective governments conceded too much to the other side and damaged national interests and identity. The critics included President Gjorge Ivanov, who called the agreement with Greece a "flagrant violation of sovereignty".

However, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev declared the vote a success and said he would seek to secure the required two-thirds majority of the 120-seat parliament by next week for the constitutional changes.

"The results of the referendum in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. are controversial".

The Greek government has noted the "contradictory" results from Macedonia's referendum - overwhelming approval, but low voter turnout - on the two countries' deal to resolve a decades-long dispute over the Macedonia name.

In Macedonia held a referendum on the agreement with Greece on renaming the country the Republic of Northern Macedonia and the opening of the country the path to joining the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Greece's refusal to recognize Macedonia as a country has barred it from participating in worldwide groups, such as NATO and the EU.Greece insists Macedonia designate itself as "North" to differentiate the country from Greece's own province of Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. It would be a major step for a country that less than two decades ago nearly descended into civil war, when some in its ethnic Albanian minority took up arms against the government, seeking greater rights.

But like Zaev, Western leaders also tried to put a positive spin on the outcome, glossing over the turnout issue and instead focusing on the resounding "yes" those that did manage to cast ballots gave the accord.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn tweeted that he expects "all political leaders to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines".

"We have seen a deeply unsuccessful referendum".

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Nationalists on Sunday night celebrated the low turnout, declaring it a victory for the opposition camp.

This morning the Macedonian people had their answer. Mattis has said there was "no doubt" Russian Federation funded groups inside Macedonia to campaign against the name change. The country's main opposition party, which lost power to Zaev previous year, vehemently fought the renaming agreement, and its top leaders declared they would boycott the vote.

"Everything is wrong with that deal".

"I am not happy and I do not know anyone who likes this deal", said 55-year old Danica Taneska, who voted "no".

"The downside is that the election would postpone adoption of the constitutional changes for 45 to 60 days", she said.

The dispute is perhaps best illustrated by the hundreds of statues and monuments highlighting the glories of ancient Macedonia, a product of an extraordinarily kitschy building spree in Skopje that was led by then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, before he was arrested and tried on graft and wiretapping charges. In July, a group of rowdy soccer fans said they had been paid to stir up violence at protests against the deal.

According to CNN, "many in Macedonia see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick-start an economic revival", and Zaev, who brokered the deal, is banking on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership bringing much needed investment to Macedonia.

Image copyright EPA Image caption These young voters backed a Yes vote, holding up placards for a "European Macedonia" What has the reaction been? So far Zaev has pledges of support from 73 lawmakers - seven short.

His governing coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, opposes the deal and has vowed to vote against it, leaving him reliant on opposition support.

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