Low turnout mars Macedonian referendum, so what's next?

Low turnout mars Macedonian referendum, so what's next?

Low turnout mars Macedonian referendum, so what's next?

In June, the Greek and Macedonian prime ministers, urged on by Washington and Brussels, reached a landmark compromise, known as the Prespa Agreement, under which Greece would drop its objections to Macedonia's joining the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in return for the name change. With that low a turnout, getting the required support from the Macedonian Parliament could be hard.

Asked whether a mandatory vote should be introduced in Macedonia or not, such as in Belgium, he said "the right way" was to proceed as during the 2009 presidential election, when he said there had been a change in the law to bring the threshold to 40%, because many Macedonians live outside the country. A low turnout on Sunday could complicate his task in persuading more lawmakers that the name change deal reflects the will of the people.

He said in an interview two weeks before the vote that the previous government's "utterly misguided foreign policy" had left the country isolated.

"I invite everyone to come out and make this serious decision for the future of our country, for future generations", Zaev said.

The constitutional amendments that are required need a two-thirds majority of parliament's 120 members to go through.

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

Opponents of the name deal with Greece, which include President Gjorge Ivanov, have called for a boycott of the vote.

Tzanakopoulos said the opportunity to solve a long-standing dispute between Athens and Skopje should not be wasted and said Greek authorities were flexible regarding the time frame described in the June deal.

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". If the constitutional amendments are approved by Macedonia's parliament, Greece will then also need to ratify it.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras praised Zaev's "toughness and determination" to push through the deal.

The referendum offered a chance for the Macedonian public to weigh in on the deal with Greece, which has kept Skopje from being a full participant in Western institutions since it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Greece says the name Macedonia implies territorial and cultural claims on the northern Greek region of the same name.

The proposed name change is part of a deal with neighbouring Greece to resolve a decades-old dispute that has prevented Macedonia from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or the EU.

Even so, Russian Federation openly opposed Sunday's vote, with its ambassador in Skopje warning Macedonians they could become a "legitimate target", if relations between Moscow and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation deteriorate further.

The deal would "contribute to regional stability, security, and prosperity", it added, among concerns that if people in the Western Balkans lost hope in European Union enlargement prospects, it could open up a hornet's nest of old hostilities - just two decades after the last Balkan wars.

Those same Western voices were largely quiet Sunday, but the ones who spoke up focused on the overwhelming support from those who did vote.

"This is the will of the people and VMRO-DPMNE will follow it", party leader Hristijan Mickoski told reporters, adding that the "government lost its legitimity". "This today is a defeat not only for the agreement with Greece, but for the crime of those who are in power".

Both Russia and the West had a stake in yesterday's referendum in Macedonia, which was technically about the formal naming of the former Yugoslav republic.

Commission head Oliver Derkoski said the Macedonian Constitution stipulates a minimum 50 per cent turnout for a referendum to be considered binding.

Meanwhile, the European Union urged all sides to respect the result of Sunday's referendum in Macedonia.

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