By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia’s right wing VMRO DPMNE party has boosted its popularity in the past three months and is now very close to the main ruling Social Democrats, suggests an opinion poll published this week.
In the survey carried out at the end of July and the beginning of August, 24 per cent of the respondents said they supported the VMRO DPMNE. This represents a 3.4 per cent increase in three months.
The previous survey by the same agency in May suggested that 20.6 per cent supported the opposition party.
The ruling Social Democrats led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev meanwhile lost 1.1 per cent of their popularity and are now on 24.4 per cent, compared to 25.1 per cent in May, according to the survey, commissioned by the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation, MCMS, an NGO, and carried out by the M-Prospect agency.
Some observers think that the change is mostly due to the emotionally-charged debate about the forthcoming ‘name’ referendum.
The VMRO DPMNE is firmly against the envisaged change of the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia in order to remove Greece’s blockade of the country’s EU and NATO accession.
“VMRO DPMNE marks more support among ethnic Macedonians: from 28 per cent in May to 32.8 per cent in August, which strengthens the thesis that their boost in popularity is due to the agreement with Greece,” Aleksandar Krzalovski, the head of MCMS, told Deutsche Welle on Thursday.
“Those who were undecided the last time [in May], but who are against the agreement, have now opted for VMRO,” he added.
Positive outlook for ‘name’ referendum
The survey gives a more positive outlook for the success of the forthcoming ‘name’ referendum, which is set for September 30.
The survey showed that 66.4 per cent of respondents plan to vote, 19.8 per cent plan to boycott the plebiscite, while 11.9 per cent have not decided yet.
The majority of respondents, 41.5 per cent, said they would support the ‘name’ agreement, while 35.1 per cent opted to vote against it.
A principal aim of the agreement with Greece that was signed on June 17 is to ensure that Greece ends its longstanding blockade of Macedonia’s membership of NATO and the EU.
Under the deal, Macedonia agreed to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, while Greece agreed to lift its veto on Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration.
For the deal to be fully implemented, however, Macedonians must show they support it in a referendum.