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    This picture taken on September 30, 2018, shows an empty polling station in the village of Dabilje, during a referendum on whether to change the country's name to Republic of Northern Macedonia.

    Leaders of Macedonia's Largest Opposition Party Refuse to Vote in Referendum

    © AFP 2018 / DIMITAR DILKOFF
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    SKOPJE (Sputnik) - Hristijan Mickoski, the leader of Macedonia’s largest opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, and his deputy have abstained from voting in the referendum on changing the ex-Yugoslav republic's name over what they believe to be the manipulative wording of the main question, the party said on Sunday.

    "Mickoski believes that the question for the referendum has several meanings and opens a way for manipulation. It contains the question about membership of the European Union and NATO, which are strategic objectives of VMRO-DPMNE, while, in practice, today's referendum is about the harmful agreement on renaming the country and nothing else. Under such circumstances, Mickoski decided not to vote in the referendum," the party said in a statement.

    Mickoski’s deputy, Vlado Misajlovski, also announced that he refused to vote in the referendum.

    Turnout at the referendum has a special meaning since more than 50 percent of voters need to go to the polls to make the results of the consultative referendum valid.

    On Sunday, Macedonia is holding a referendum on its deal with Greece to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. The citizens are offered to answer the question "Are you in favor of the European Union and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?" The name issue has proven to be contentious, with some political forces, including President Gjorge Ivanov, having pledged to boycott the vote.

    READ MORE: NATO Pressure, Opposition Boycott: What's at Stake in Macedonia Name Change Vote

    On June 17, Greek and Macedonian foreign ministers signed an agreement on the former Yugoslav Republic's renaming to the Republic of North Macedonia, following a decades-long dispute over the use of "Macedonia," which Greece has been objecting to as this is also the name of one of its regions.

    The country’s new constitutional name will open the way for Macedonia’s accession to the European Union and NATO, which has long been blocked by Athens over concerns that the neighboring country might have territorial claims to Greece’s own region of the same name.

    Related:

    Macedonian Opposition Party Hopes President to Boycott Name Change Referendum
    Macedonian President Pledges to Boycott 'Harmful' Referendum on Name Deal
    UK Minister for Europe Urges Macedonians to Vote for Name Change
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    opposition, vote, referendum, Macedonia
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