Referendum fails to hit turnout threshold in Macedonia

Macedonia Macedonia referendum Macedonia name change North Macedonia Macedonia NATO membership Macedonia EU membership Greece Macedonia dispute world news indian express

Greece's parliament must also approve the June name deal and, like Zaev, leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also faces opposition from his nationalist foes.

"I can only urge as a true democrat to use the opportunity to participate in a free and transparent democratic process", he said, adding that "boycott is not an expression of a democratic majority".

The EU commissioner in charge of negotiations to expand the bloc, Johannes Hahn, wrote on Twitter that the result reflected "broad support" for both the name change and "the country's #Euroatlantic path".

As underlined by the analyst, the results of the past 30 September of the relevant national will can't be recognized as legitimate because of a record low turnout of the electorate, and local authorities need to do everything possible in order to organize a new vote.

"That was the biggest threat to our country's future", he said.

Macedonia's global partners called for parliamentary support for the deal.

He stressed that there was "no better deal with Greece, and there could not be a better deal".

Citing preliminary results that showed more than 90 percent of those who voted supported the deal, Zaev told AFP it was now "parliament's turn to confirm the will of the majority".

In an address, Zaev made no mention of the turnout but said the votes of those who had backed the change must be respected.

"Greece respects the choices of the citizens of FYROM", the Greek Foreign Ministry said.

The United States and the European Union urged Macedonian lawmakers to back the change, saying voters had "expressed their support for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and EU membership". The group's monitors put turnout at 19 per cent at 3 p.m., he said - slightly lower than the State Electoral Commission's just over 22 per cent at the same time. However, barely 300 people gathered there an hour and a half after the polls closed. The figure was based on data from 85 percent of polling stations.

The fiasco sets the scene for the country's pro-EU leader, prime minister Zoran Zaev, to try to ratify the name deal via a vote in parliament. If the referendum had been successful, it would have resolved a dispute with Greece that has blocked Macedonia's route to European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership.

That would help him with the next step of winning parliamentary support for the required constitutional amendments. Polls opened at 7am (0500 GMT) and are to close at 7pm in the referendum on whether to accept or reject the deal.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov slammed the deal as a "flagrant violation of sovereignty".

Greece believes that the opportunity to solve a decades old dispute over the Macedonia name issue must not be wasted, the country's government spokesman said on Monday, a day after a referendum was held in the ex-Yugoslav Republic.

Athens protested immediately, accusing Skopje of stealing the name of its own northern province also called Macedonia.

If the referendum were binding, the Macedonian Constitution requires a minimum turnout of 50 percent of eligible voters to be valid.

According to Andreja Bogdanovski, in the event of a "failed attempt for constitutional changes, there will be early elections as soon as November" - a step that will likely prolong regional uncertainty.

"No better agreement with Greece has been made or could be made and there is no other alternative than our country joining the European Union", he said.

The referendum is non-binding, meaning the government could take the outcome as a fair reflection of public opinion regardless of turnout.

In Macedonia, those opposing the deal urged voters to boycott Sunday's referendum.

- This corrects the name of the election chief to Derkoski.

"Today the citizens are going out to decide on their future", Zaev told the press after casting his ballot in his hometown of Strumica, an eastern city where he was once mayor.

Zaev said Macedonians "are deciding the fate of our country".

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

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