The last day of September is here. The forecast for Skopje says that it will be sunny and about 20 C. In other words, it won’t be too bad of a day to wait in a voting line deciding whether to keep or change the name of your country.
The Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter wrote yesterday that few, if any, Macedonians want to change the name of their country. But most of them will still cast a yes-vote today. If the people here accept the new name it will be to The Republic of North Macedonia. And that’s a big “if”. In the latest Macedonian general election in 2014, only half of the population voted. And the president, Gjorge Ivanov, have fiercely stated that he won’t sign anything that changes the name of the country.
Nationalists on both sides of the border between Greece and Macedonia are few but have gotten louder and louder – or gotten more and more attention in order for journalists to create the always beloved conflict. The Greeks claim to have the right to the name “Macedonia” and therefore, FYROM’s new name shouldn’t even include ‘Macedonia’. People seem to have gotten used to the name (FYROM – Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia) and don’t really want to change it. But if FYROM wants to join the EU and NATO, they need to. Greece is a member of both alliances and will veto any attempt from FYROM to become member as things stand today. If the new name is accepted and ratified, 27 years of conflict will hopefully come to an end.
Recently, president Ivanov urged his compatriots not to vote on Sunday, “calling the name change a “noose” and a “flagrant violation of sovereignty”.”
I haven’t discussed this issue with many here. The mandatory reference to a taxi driver as a representative of the people will go wrong here. I did ask the one that brought me and my bags from the bus station to the hotel. The mention of the referendum got him excited to the degree that he almost ran a red light. He went on for five minutes using profanities, calling everyone who would vote “yes” a crazy person. (On the other hand, he also said that anyone who ever votes is a crazy person.)
It is also hard to assess how high feelings are running. There has been a nation-wide demonstration ban during Friday and Saturday. The ban is in effect during Sunday as well. The answer will probably come as the result becames public, which it will be during Sunday night or the early hours on Monday.