Macedonia’s PM to talk with opposition on name change

Macedonia’s PM to talk with opposition on name change

Macedonia’s PM to talk with opposition on name change Izvor: Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski

Zoran Zaev, Macedonian Prime Minister, said on Monday he would initiate talks with his political opponents following Sunday’s referendum with a low turnout that threw a ball into the parliament’s yard where ruling coalition could not count on the required two-thirds majority alone, the Beta news agency reported.

Zaev’s coalition currently has the support of 71 parliamentarians, while the changes of the constitution needed to implement the county’s new name require at least 80 votes meaning that the opposition bloc led by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE's consent is necessary.

“In a few days I will know if there is a mood for reaching an accord with the opposition to have the two-thirds majority in the parliament which we need to accept the constitutional changes agreed with Greece,” Zaev said.

He added that the last resort was an early general election.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said on Monday that the referendum on the name dispute with Greece did not succeed and that it was time for the regime to take responsibility. Ivanov, a nationalist leader, warned Zaev not to underestimate the will of the people and try to change the reality – the failure of the referendum.

“There is a possibility of an early parliamentary election under the constitution and laws, but I hope we will have an agreement. We cannot afford a frozen process. Thus the things have to move forward,” Macedonian Prime Minister said, adding that in case there was no deal with the opposition the elections could be called by the end of November.

Zaev told reporters that right now he did not have the support of any individual opposition MPs, but added that “at this moment, we need to show a maturity since no one has offered an alternative to the European Union and NATO, nor any better deal with Greece is possible.”

He said that the time was crucial because of the European Parliament elections in May 2019.

Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed in June that new name for the former Yugoslav republic should be North Macedonia, thus ending the 27-year-old dispute over the issue during which Greece blocked Macedonia from its Euro-Atlantic integration.

The June accord was welcomed by the international community and pointed out as an example of how the bilateral issues should be solved.

However, nationalists in both countries oppose the agreement and have staged some street protests against it.

The VMRO-DPMNE called for the boycott of the Sunday’s referendum, and the voters responded. The turnout was lower than required, and since the popular vote was not legally binding, the process had to be moved to the parliament.

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