The Parliament of FYROM approved the proposal to start the process to rename the country’s name into “North Macedonia.” The voting Friday midnight was just the first but important step on the way to NATO and European Union accession. However, the process is lengthy before FYROM can ratify the Prespes Agreement that will also need ratification in Greece’s Palriament.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev managed to win 7 lawmakers from the main opposition VMRO and to bring together 80 votes necessary for the approval in a parliament of 120-seats.
VMRO immediately expelled the MPs. Earlier on Friday, there were rumors that the VMRO MPs were bribed. But the truth might be such “survival”
At the end the personal interest of some of the accused/investigated/indicted VMRO MP's prevailed. Many of the 8 VMRO MP's voted "Yes" in order to ingratiate themselves to the Govt hoping for lower sentences in their corruption and 2017 coup attempt trials.#Macedonia
— Vladimir Petreski (@VPetreski) October 19, 2018
“Today is a historic day for the country,” Zaev said. He had seen a great part of the country’s voters to stay away form the ballot boxes in the relevant Referendum last month. “Macedonia will be part of the European family, our dreams and visions for a better lief and a better country will be fulfilled,” he added.
Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov tweeted:
One major step forward toward making history and unlocking a common future. There is no other way for our region to move forward but through reconciliation, mutual understanding and friendship. Onwards and upwards!
— Nikola Dimitrov (@Dimitrov_Nikola) October 19, 2018
VMRO leader Hristijan Mickoski said “Today is a sad day. Black Friday, the blackest in Macedonia’s modern history.”
Congratulations messages came from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn:
Congratulations my friend @Zoran_Zaev ! Tonight’s vote is a big step towards our common success. A very important step to a peaceful and prosperous future for our people!
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) October 19, 2018
A great day for #democracy in #Skopje 🇲🇰! I congratulate all those who decided to walk on along the #EU path. I expect that the free choice of all MPs is fully respected, especially of those who crossed the aisle tonight. We need statesmanship, not party-games.
— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) October 19, 2018
The process in FYROM’s Palriament to conclude the changes is lengthy and will require several more rounds of voting expected to last about three months.
Every Constitutional amendment needs to be voted separately in 2 parliamentary committees, then at the plenary session of the parliament. At the end there needs to be another plenary vote for the whole change of the Constitution. All those votes require 2/3 majority.
While the constitutional procedure will continue, this was the make-or-break vote tonight. Unlikely that 2 future plenary votes (3 amendments & the whole change) will be different.
Then the ball moves into the #Greek court.@NikosKotzias resignation – not a good sign.#Macedonia
— Vladimir Petreski (@VPetreski) October 19, 2018
In Greece’s court political developments are expected to be crucial with Tsipras’ junior coalition partner ANEL and its leader Panos Kammenos to have stated to down vote the ratification of the Prespes Agreement or eventually leave the coalition in order to prohibthe Agreement to come to Parliament.
However, Tsipras is confident that even without Kammenos votes he win the ratification vote. At least one ANEL MP has stated to vote in favor, small opposition party To Potami considers to support the Agreement, while Tsipras hopes to gain for the cause also some independent MPs and reach the necessary simple majority of at least 151 votes.
Should the voting process in FYROM run smooth, the Prespes Agreement may come to Greek Parliament in January or February.
Saturday morning Greek media speak of scenarios for snap elections in spring or even in January 2019, while they claim that the Prime Minister may consider to seek a vote of confidence. Tsipras is determined to hold regular elections in October 2019, despite his unpredictable coalition partner.
Panos Kammenos remains a devoted opponent of the Agreement and insists on his conspiracy theory that supporters were bribed. He claimed Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias “took millions by Soros” and led to his resignation.
He attacked also the MPs in FYROM.
Ποιός θα φανταζόταν ότι στην Ευρώπη των αξιών και της δημοκρατίας οποίος δεν ψηφίζει κατά τις εντολες προφυλακίζεται και οποίος συμμορφώνεται παίρνει μπόνους 2.000.000€ μαύρο χρήμα. Ντρέπομαι
— Panos Kammenos (@PanosKammenos) October 19, 2018
“Who would have thought that in Europe of values and democracy whoever does not vote following orders is detained and whoever complies get a bonus of €2,000,000 black money. I am ashamed,” he tweeted Friday night.
The answer came directly from Skopje:
Dear Mr. Kammenos , please be informed that you have shared fake news already officially denied by our Government. In the spirit of democracy and good diplomacy lets work for the friendship between our countries.
— Миле Бошњаковски (@portparolVRM) October 19, 2018
Zaev’s opposition and Kammenos share the same theory: that billionaire George Soros poured money in favor of the Prespes Agreement. However, none of them has brought evidence to support their claim so far. At the same time, Agreement supporters have claimed that Russia funded theopponents.
Saturday morning in Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took the oath also as Foreign Minister.