Macedonia’s electoral commission has announced that a referendum on changing the country’s name to North Macedonia did not pass the 50 percent turnout threshold needed to make the vote legally valid. “In this referendum, it is clear that the decision has not been made,” the head of the electoral board, Oliver Derkoski, said.
Although over 90 percent of voters expressed support for the initiative, turnout was only 36 percent. The question on the ballot read: “Are you for EU and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?” The aim of the vote was to resolve a long-standing quarrel with Athens over who can use the name Macedonia, which also belongs to a northern Greek region. If the change goes ahead, Greece will lift its veto on Macedonia’s attempts to join the EU and NATO. Despite the low turnout – the result of an apparently effective boycott by opponents of the name-change – Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that the will of the people must be respected and approved by MPs. Zaev added that he would call for snap parliamentary elections if lawmakers fail to approve the plan. The EU’s Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, has already voiced support for the referendum – calling on all parties to “to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines.”