Power and opposition screamed victory Monday after the referendum on the new name of Macedonia, with a victory of yes but also a massive abstention that raises uncertainty about ratification in Parliament.
The agreement signed in June by Macedonian Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev and Greek Alexis Tsipras, plans to christen “Republic of Northern Macedonia” this small, poor country of the Balkans.
This would close the conflict with Athens, which for a quarter of a century has accused its small neighbor of usurping its historical heritage and blocking its path to the European Union and NATO.
According to the results of almost all polling stations on Monday, 91.48% of voters who voted Sunday voted yes, while 5.64% voted no to this agreement.
But the very strong abstention – after two-thirds of the 1.8 million registered citizens did not take part in this referendum – undermines the legitimacy of the vote, on which relied the Social Democrat Zoran Zaev to to find in Parliament the two-thirds majority required.
With his allies of the Albanian minority parties (20-25% of the 2.1 million inhabitants), he misses eleven elected.
In the perspective of this battle, everyone offers his contradictory readings of popular sovereignty. “More than 90% of the total votes are for yes, so now it is the turn of the Parliament to confirm the will of the majority,” Zoran Zaev told AFP.
The boss of the right-wing opposition (VMRO-DPMNE), Hristijan Mickoski, told him that “the government had lost its legitimacy, and that the only thing left to do was to respect the will of the people”. reside in his eyes in the mass of those who responded to calls for boycott.
– Towards elections –
He himself did not participate in the vote, as did President Gjorge Ivanov, whose role is honorific, resolute opponent of the agreement with Greece.
“More than 600,000 citizens voted Yes,” the daily Sloboden Pecat, close to power, said Monday. “Failure of the referendum, Macedonia is heading for new elections,” according to his competitor Vecer, favorable to the opposition.
For the opponents, the vote is rendered invalid by a constitutional provision which requires a quorum of 50% for imperative referendums. But Zoran Zaev retorts that the referendum was advisory and that this bar does not have to be reached.
“This type of referendum serves as an indicator for those responsible for making a decision, in this case the Parliament,” says constitutional law professor Subhi Jakupi, for whom the quorum rule does not apply.
“Everyone knows that the lists are not up to date” that the figure of 1.8 million voters is “inflated” when the reality is between 1.4 and 1.5 million because of an emigration of mass, says the French academic specialist in the Balkans, Loïc Tregoures. No census has been conducted since 2002.
Convincing eleven deputies of right to defect seems complicated for Zoran Zaev, even if the VMRO-DPMNE is divided. If he does not succeed, he will call early elections in November.
– ‘Hurry up’ –
A likely outcome for political commentator Aco Abranov: “Zaev will not succeed in Parliament and we will soon have elections that the VMRO-DPMNE will lose”, he predicts, citing his recent poor electoral results and the dismay of the right-wing party since that he lost power.
On Sunday night, Westerners reiterated to Macedonian officials that there was no plan B.
“The NATO gate is open, but all national procedures must be completed,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted. Greece, which has been cautious about what the Ethnos newspaper has described as a “Pyrrhic victory”, has always warned that its veto will not be lifted until the problem is solved.
“Time is running out because Tsipras has taken a lot of risks and nothing says that the next Greek government will be on the same line,” warned Loïc Trégoures.