FRYM, The land without a name voted at the referendum without a meaning
After Yugoslavia collapse one of the republics of it, Macedonia, was left without an international recognized name. Neighbouring Greece has been strongly opposed against “Macedonia” as it views Macedonia as integral part of the modern Greece. In fact there is a province in Greece named Macedonia. It is impossible to have two entities with the same name, argued Greece. So in all international treaties Macedonia was named quite diminishing: “Former republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia” – FRYM. The lack of the valid name lead to break of the incorporation of the FRYM in international bodies, including much desired European Union and NATO.
There was decided that the case will be decided by the all-Macedonian (FRYM) referendum. The question was: would you agree to rename the country to the “North Macedonia?” And 91%, according to the preliminary results voted to abandon the name of their country in exchange of clearing the path to the EU. So is the case closed and will “North Macedonia” appear in passports, maps and UN?
The prospects are not so obvious, as those 91% are representing only 33% of eligible voters. It allows to claim victory both by the government (pro-renaming) and opposition (anti-renaming).
Macedonian public was put under pressure to vote “Yes”. This tiny country was visited by highest rank in the US and NATO and, to be honest, they were not passive beholders. They actively pushed the case for renaming to incorporate the FRYM in the Western zone of influence. Not everyone agreed as the polls shown.
The results are yet to be officially announced and put into the law. With such a low turnout it would be highly difficult to proclaim the inconsistent results as the will of the people.
The Russian Connection
There is a nice yet modern tradition to explain the unfavoured outcomes of the referendums and elections as influence of the Kremlin. The hypothetical “Russian connection” allows to void the unlucky results and offers a way to intervene in the internal affairs of the foreign country. Jim Mattis, the US DOD chief, has made the exact thing by openly campaigning for the name change. There is no hard proof that Russians were involved in persuading Macedonians to not to participate in the referendum.