Macedonia begins voting in major referendum on renaming country

Macedonia begins voting in major referendum on renaming country

Today voters in Macedonia will begin casting their votes in a referendum that proposes changing the name of their country

Greek Foreign Minister Kotzias and his Macedonian counterpart Dimitrov sign an accord to settle a long dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name in the village of Psarades

Photo: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

Today voters in Macedonia will begin casting their votes in a referendum that proposes changing the name of their country to the Republic of North Macedonia. However, the vote is consultative and needs to be ratified by parliament.

The referendum proposal to change the country’s name comes from an agreement reached in June with the Greek government, which aimed to normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries. Despite being opposed by Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and supported by the main opposition party, opinion polls are still unclear as to which side is expected to prevail. Latest polling has shown over 41% of Macedonians in favour with 31% opposed, leaving a large bloc of undecided voters who will be critical to swaying the vote.

A vote in favour of changing the name to North Macedonia is expected to result in Athens lifting its decades-long veto over Macedonia applying for membership in the EU and NATO. In the event of a ‘yes result, both Macedonia and Greece are contractually obliged to re-establish relations, contingent on Macedonia passing necessary constitutional reforms. That would raise the possibility of the country dramatically pivoting into a political and economic orbit with Western Europe.

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