FYR Macedonia votes YES to name change despite overwhelmingly low turnout

World Today

A man cats his his ballot at a polling station during a referendum in Skopje, Macedonia, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could soon be changing its name to “North Macedonia”. A referendum asked voters if they favored the change, which would give the country a chance to join NATO and the European Union.

The referendum is part of a government deal to improve relations with Greece,  which has a province named Macedonia.

CGTN’s Aljosa Milenkovic filed this report from the capital, Skopje.

Follow Aljosa Milenkovic on Twitter @AljosaCGTN

It was a historic moment for the small, Balkan country. On Sunday, eyes from around the world were on Macedonia, with expectations from some for the referendum to succeed and bring favorable results.

More than 903,000 voters needed to cast their ballots for the referendum to be considered successful. However, it was cold shower for those supporting the referendum, when the first turnout figures started emerging.

A supporter of a movement for voters to boycott the referendum, celebrates in central Skopje, FYR Macedonia, after election officials gave low turnout figures, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

It was clear by the late afternoon that people across the country were boycotting the vote, choosing to follow President Gjorge Ivanov’s call not to participate in the process.

In the end, figures showed that only about 34-percent of the Macedonian voters actually went to the polls. Preliminary results show that over 90-percent of those who did turn out voted for the name change, and for E.U. and NATO memberships of the country.

Soon after those results were announced, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev addressed the nation at a press conference, vowing to continue the fight for the acceptance of the referendum results, regardless of the the turnout.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev talks to members of the media about the referendum in Skopje, FYR Macedonia, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

The prime minister called on the opposition to support the name change in parliament, but said that if opposition failed to do so, Macedonia would have to go to snap elections.