Macedonia: Right-Wingers Call For ‘Name’ Referendum Boycott


By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Right-wing groups led by the small pro-Russian United Macedonia party are launching a joint campaign for a boycott of the September 30 ‘name’ referendum on changing the country’s name to heal relations with Greece.

A coalition of 28 small right-wing political parties, political factions, civic associations and NGOs are backing a campaign dubbed ‘Macedonia Boycotts’, whose aim is to foil September’s referendum on the historic ‘name’ agreement with Greece, which is key for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic path.

Janko Bacev, the president of the small United Macedonia party and head of the so-called crisis headquarters, which the right-wing groups formed on Sunday called the Social Democrats-led government illegal and described those who support the referendum as traitors.

“A new and legal government which will come, will deal with all the national traitors,” Bacev warned on Sunday.

“Let’s boycott the September 30 referendum and save Macedonia’s centuries-old name,” he urged.

The referendum on September 30 will ask voters if they back Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU by accepting the name agreement with Greece that was signed in June.

Under the deal, Macedonia agreed to change its name to Republic of North Macedonia, while Greece agreed to lift its veto on Macedonia’s NATO and EU integration.

For the deal to be fully implemented, Macedonians must show they support it in a referendum.

The small United Macedonia, which Becev leads, is the only openly pro-Russian party in the country, and has no MPs in parliament.

Those involved in the ‘Macedonia Boycotts’ campaign also include Filip Petrovski, a former prominent member of the main right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party who is now leading party’s so called ‘Democratic faction’.

Petrovski on Sunday accused the government of Zoran Zaev of trying to persuade the VMRO DPMNE to participate in the referendum in order to its boost chances of reaching the required threshold of more than 50 per cent of voters.

“We here say no! We won’t accept that game; we will boycott; the referendum must fail and on September 30, Zaev’s government will crumble as well,” Petrovski said.

Officially, VMRO DPMNE remains undecided about whether to take part in the referendum. The party strongly opposes the ‘name’ agreement with Greece.

The newly-formed campaign against the referendum also includes so-called ‘patriotic associations’ like the Christian Brotherhood, Amanet 1903 [Legacy 1903], Tvrdokorni [Hardcore], Makedonium and The Third Party of Macedonians, as well as some other less prominent or completely obscure associations.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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