Sunday, May 19, 2019
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Macedonians vote on whether to change country's name

The referendum is not binding, but a 'yes' majority would give parliament a mandate to change the constitution.

Macedonians have begun voting in a key referendum on whether to re-name their country North Macedonia in a bid to settle a long-running row with Greece and unlock its path to NATO and EU membership.

Polls for some 1.8 million voters opened at 7am local time (5GMT) and will close at 7pm. The question on the referendum ballot is: "Are you for NATO and EU membership with acceptance of the agreement with Greece".

The referendum is not binding, but a 'yes' majority would give parliament a political mandate to change the constitution.

If the deal is passed through the referendum and is ratified by two-thirds of MPs, the Greek parliament will be called on to give the final stamp of approval.

While the Macedonian government plans to call any significant majority in favour of the deal a success, the right-wing opposition may question the vote's credibility if turnout is below 50 percent.

Macedonia has struggled for recognition of its name since its birth in 1991 when the landlocked country declared independence from Yugoslavia.

Greece, which has its own northern province called Macedonia, has always maintained that Macedonia's name represented a claim on its territory.

It vetoed Macedonia's entrance into NATO and the EU, and forced it to enter the United Nations under a provisional name as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev argues that accepting a new name is a price worth paying for admission into the EU and NATO.

But nationalist opponents say it would undermine the ethnic identity of the country's Slavic majority population. President Gjorge Ivanov, who is allied with the nationalist, has said he will boycott the referendum.

The dispute stretches back nearly three decades, with both countries claiming links to Alexander the Great's ancient empire of Macedon, which spanned the territories.

A grandiose "antiquisation" project under Macedonia's former government that plastered Skopje with neo-classical facades and statues of Alexander the Great added fuel to the fire.

But in June Macedonia's Prime Minister Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras reached a landmark compromise under which Greece would drop its objections to Macedonia joining the EU and NATO in return for the name change.

Some feel it is embarrassing to change their name at the request of another country.

But a desire anchor their future to the West - and the economic prosperity that could bring - is a powerful motivation to accept the deal in one of Europe's poorest countries.

"We cannot really say it is fair, but the EU and NATO matter more for all of us, so let's move forward," 28-year-old Abedin Memeti said ahead of the vote.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

Two border crossings open in divided Cyprus, first in 8 years

Read More

Ukraine rebel regions vote in polls slammed by Kiev and the West

Read More

UN chief sees 'parallels' with 1930s amid nationalism warnings

Read More

Macron urges world leaders to 'fight for peace' on WWI centenary

Read More

Erdogan and Trump meet in Paris amid Khashoggi crisis

Read More

12 killed in Sicily as death toll in Italy floods mounts

Read More

Most Read Articles

Most Read News

Donation

Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:

Featured_Author

Login






Login reminder Forgot login?

Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Israel pounds Gaza

India's Kerala state devastated

Capturing life under apartheid