Macedonia Races Against Time for Name Change

Macedonia’s prime minister is optimistic about mustering enough support for the adoption of the historic ‘name’ agreement with Greece, but lengthy parliamentary procedures mean the schedule is very tight.

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Tuesday said that he is optimistic that the legal procedure for the adoption of the historic ‘name’ agreement with Greece will pass through parliament, gaining support from the required two-thirds majority.

“I am convinced that through an inclusive process and in a pleasant atmosphere in parliament itself, we can send a positive message to our citizens but also to our friends, the EU and NATO, that we are a mature society,” Zaev said.

He confirmed that there are ongoing talks with opposition MPs who are needed to support the changes, but said that only the vote will tell whether the required majority of 80 MPs in the 120-seat parliament has been reached.

“We talked to many MPs. I personally talked [to them] and the MPs also talked among themselves, and we saw that there is a good and progressive group of legislators, which is a good enough reason and a serious motive to start the procedures,” Zaev said.

At an extraordinary parliamentary session on Monday, Macedonia’s Social Democrat-led government adopted a motion on making constitutional changes to change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

But a glimpse at the parliament rulebook reveals that the adoption of these changes may take three or more months.

The first test of whether the ruling parties have secured a two-thirds majority is expected to happen within the next ten to 20 days, which is how long MPs have to discuss the government motion for constitutional changes, first at the constitutional commission and then at a plenary session, after which they will have to vote.

If two-thirds of MPs approve it, the government can start preparing the actual draft constitutional amendments and submit them to a repeat vote. If not, the most probable option is that the parliamentary majority which is pushing for the name deal will opt for snap elections.

In case of a successful first phase, the second phase may take even longer, as the parliamentary rulebook envisages that at least 30 days must pass from the moment when the parliament receives the draft amendments to the moment they are put to a repeat vote at a plenary session, which this time would require only a simple majority of at least 61 MPs.

Additional time could be lost during the session itself, as a maximum of three days of discussion is envisaged for each amendment. The government did not specify how many amendments it plans to prepare, but said that they tackle four main changes to the constitution, one of them being the implementation of the new name.

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