According to the Skopje newspaper, “Nezavisen Vesnik” (published by IBNA Group), the parliament of fYROMacedonia is expected to officially launch the referendum on the name agreement in mid-July.
Well-informed sources reported to the newspaper that the referendum question would be drafted in a way that would link the name agreement to the country’s NATO and EU membership – for example. “Do you agree with the name change with a view to EU membership and NATO?” – and they believe that the outcome of the European Council at the end of June and the NATO summit on 11 and 12 July will be such that it will strengthen the positive attitude of the citizens towards the agreement, as a document that will lead to the disengagement of the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the country.
According to the report, political circles in Skopje consider September 9 – the day after the celebration of the 27th anniversary of the independence of the country (8 September) – to be the most likely date for the referendum in, as the current legislation provides that referenda can only take place on Sunday. If it is estimated that it is unrealistic to link the referendum to the anniversary of the independence of fYROMacedonia, the newspaper adds, then the following Sunday, September 16, is mentioned as an alternative date.
“Although Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has said that the referendum could take place in early October, the first weeks of September are seen as a more likely date, in order to have more time to implement the changes to the constitution envisaged in the agreement with Greece”, the newspaper reports.
It adds that in this context, political parties have already begun to prepare their referendum campaigns. Generally speaking, the ruling coalition parties are expected to underline the importance of the agreement on the European perspective of fYROMacedonia, while the main opposition party will oppose the agreement.
What’s more, the newspaper notes that VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski’s statements about the party’s participation in the referendum create optimism to reach the threshold for participation (50% of those enrolled in the electoral roll) needed for the referendum be valid.
However, according to the newspaper, party sources are afraid of a “silent boycott by the opposition”, adding that for this reason there are thoughts to call the referendum as advisory, but with a binding effect. What this practically means is that even if the 50% threshold is not reached, the referendum will be seen as an expression of popular will and will determine whether fYROMacedonia will proceed to the next steps envisaged in the agreement, namely the amendment of the constitution, or if the agreement becomes void.
The newspaper recalls that two referendums have been held in the country so far. The first, in 1991, led to the proclamation of the independence of fYROMacedonia. The second took place in 2004, at the initiative of citizens, and concerned the new administrative chart of the country promoted by the then government. The then ruling party of the Social Democrats and Albanian parties had boycotted that referendum, which was not successful as only 27% of those enrolled in the electoral rolls participated./IBNA