Saturday, October 6, 2018

What Happened in the "North Macedonia" Referendum?

Are there two Macedonias? Where is FYROM located? Where is Macedonia in relation to Greece? Map of Macedonia, including both the controversially-named Republic of Macedonian (FYROM) and the Greek provinces of Macedonia.
Besides the controversially-named Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Greece has three Macedonia provinces too. Contact us for permission to use this map.

Referendum in the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

Last Sunday, people in Southeastern Europe's Republic of Macedonia - also known as FYROM, an acronym for "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" - voted on whether to approve a recent deal signed with Greece.

The deal famously includes changing the country's name to "Republic of North Macedonia", though that's not all it's about.

The question on the ballots was:

Are you in favor of European Union and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?

Greece has long-running objections to use of the name "Macedonia", tied up with ownership of ancient Macedonian history, and has cited those objections when blocking its neighbor from membership in the European Union and NATO. To learn all about the reasons behind the dispute, check out our article on why Greece cares so much about the name "Macedonia".

Flag of the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Short Name (used internally):  
• Macedonia (English)
Makedonija ("Macedonian")
Official Name (in constitution):  
• Republic of Macedonia (English)
• Republika Makedonija ("Macedonian")
Other names used officially:  
• Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) (international organizations)

So How Did the Referendum Turn Out?

The Republic of Macedonia/FYROM's prime minister was hoping Sunday's vote would be a resounding gesture of support for the deal with Greece, which is designed to end the 25-year dispute and open up new opportunities for the small, landlocked country.

However, opposition parties led a successful boycott of the vote, and the resulting 37% turnout was too low for a referendum to legally pass according to the country's law. Among those who did vote, over 90% voted in favor of the deal, probably because supporters were almost the only ones left voting after the boycott.

Since the referendum was technically not legally binding anyway, the country's prime minister has decided to run with the "over 90%" part and push forward with ratifying the deal anyway. Since it requires a change to the country's constitution, what's legally required to approve the changes is a two-thirds vote in parliament, not a popular referendum.

So the "FYROM" may yet change its name to North Macedonia. While you're waiting, check out our companion article for an outline of the deal's contents, which include a LOT more than just the country's name, including several points that are even more controversial:

The Greece/"North Macedonia" deal is much more than a name change agreement

Update 2019-02-19: The name change is officially complete, despite the referendum's failure. See our new article: "North Macedonia" Name Change Goes Into Effect for the details, and a timeline of the whole approval process!

Graphic of the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) flag is in the public domain (source).