OP / ED: Is Zaev strengthened or weakened?

OP / ED: Is Zaev strengthened or weakened?

A first reading of the results of the referendum in fYROMacedonia shows that Zoan Zaev did not eventually convince his audience and lead citizens to the polls to vote in favour of the Euro-Atlantic course of the country.

The nearly 37% of the voters who went to cast their votes at the referendum, in no way can it satisfy the Zaev government and the defenders of the Prespa Agreement. A percentage at least close to 50% would allow the fYROMacedonian government to use it in the consultations about the Constitutional Review, which is the prerequisite for the implementation of the Agreement.

But because numbers almost always tell the truth, let’s analyze them. About 650 000 thousand people voted in the referendum, with a total of 1.8 million voters registered, and the percentage of those who voted ‘YES’ to be over 90% or nearly 580 000 thousand people.

What does this mean for the Zaev government? Thanks to simple math, one could say that ‘YES’ earned more votes at the referendum than those President Gjorge Ivanov, who won in 2014 with 530 000 thousand voting in favour of him, got and was thus elected President. It is a detail that makes a difference and it is not the only one.

The other detail based on numbers that makes the difference is the electoral lists, which have not been renewed since 2002; the Nikola Gruevski government is responsible for this. In these lists there are 1,8 million voters registered, when it is estimated that in the country live more than 1.5 million, including those who do not have the right to vote. Voters with modest calculations are estimated at 1.2 million. With more than 650 000 thousand votes in real terms, the referendum is considered valid, as those who have cast their votes actually exceed 50% of the required by the Constitution participation of voters in it, in order to call it valid. 

If Zaev uses the dynamics of numbers, he can also persuade the parliament to revise the Constitution. During this procedure, he will need to have 80 out of the 120 deputies on his side in order to pass the changes. 

The fYROMacedonian Prime Minister ruled out early elections during his first post-referendum results statements and appeared to be ‘using’ them more as a threat against the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party than as a real intention.

The opposition is currently in a collusive situation, with three ‘lines’ dominating the party. The first trend, perhaps the most powerful one, is that expressed by the country’s President Gjorge Ivanov, who is totally opposed to any change in the name of the country. On the other hand, there stands the current President of the party, Hristijan Mickoski, who is more moderate on the issue of constitutional changes and finally the third and weakest trend is the pro-European one. The latter, however, is supported by the West with whatever consequences their reaction might be equal to in case of a possible voting in Parliament.

Going to the polls is unlikely to be of great help to Zoran Zaev, since this could strengthen the opposition, and according to his first statements (and as expected) he does not seem to want that at all. For Zaev, the best option would be to manage to break up the VMRO-DPMNE during the parliamentary processes for the Revision of the Constitution, not to go to early elections with an unpredictable result.

Looking at the numbers, Zoran Zaev does not seem to lose the advantage of passing through the reforms necessary to implement the Prespa Agreement, thus paving fYROMacedonia’s way towards NATO and the EU…. / IBNA