With most ballots counted, ‘yes’ vote at 91 percent in FYROM referendum

With most ballots counted, ‘yes’ vote at 91 percent in FYROM referendum

With 98 percent of votes counted in a referendum to change the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) early on Monday morning, the "yes" votes reached 91 percent, but turnout remained low at 36.87 percent.

Despite the low participation, with just 630,000 FYROM citizens casting ballots, FYROM's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev indicated on Sunday night that he would bring the deal to Parliament, and call snap elections if MPs do not back it.

In comments to reporters on Sunday night, Zaev put a brave face on the low turnout, focusing instead on the high percentage of positive votes.

It was a victory for the "yes" camp, he said, adding that "the will of the people must be respected by everyone."

"Voters cast their ballots with pride," he added, noting that most appeared to have voted "yes" despite a boycott championed by the political opposition.

Zaev called on the opposition to support the constitutional changes that FYROM must pass for the deal to be ratified.

"The VMRO must support the constitutional changes otherwise there is no democratic path, apart from going to elections," he said, referring to the main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE.

For his part, VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski described the outcome of the referendum as "a red light for the deal," adding that FYROM citizens sent a strong message about "Macedonian" language and identity.

Mickoski alleged vote-rigging in certain areas and called on the government to offer explanations.

"The people want EU and NATO [accession]," he said, "but not that deal."

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