Only 35 percent of the 1.8 million Macedonian registered voters came out to vote in a key name referendum on Sunday, partial results showed.
The turnout was far below the 50-percent threshold needed to make it legally valid.
Of those votes, 91 percent voted “for” the name change and 6 percent voted “against”, according to the latest data released by the Macedonian State Election Commission website.
Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that his government would seek a vote in the parliament, and he urged lawmakers to ratify the referendum results.
The referendum question they had to vote “for” or “against” read: “Are you in favor of EU and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?”
In Athens, the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Greece “remains committed to the Prespes agreement” aimed to resolve the name issue regarding the use of the term Macedonia.
“The results of the referendum in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia… are controversial…. Greece respects the choices of the citizens of FYROM,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said.
Macedonia is formally called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at the United Nations. Macedonia is also the name of a northern province in Greece. Athens is worried that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims.
Following UN-mediated negotiations for years, the governments of Greece and FYROM reached a deal this June to put an end to the name row which had started in 1991.
Under the agreement which was signed on June 17 by the two governments at Prespes Lake which is the natural border between the two states, FYROM’s new name will be “Republic of North Macedonia”.
The name row was the main obstacle Skopje had to overcome to make progress towards European Union (EU) and NATO integration. Although the two governments promote the deal, there are still many people in both countries opposing the agreement.