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US orchestrated unfair vote in Macedonian parliament on name change - Russian FM

US orchestrated unfair vote in Macedonian parliament on name change - Russian FM
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the US orchestrated an “unfair vote” in the Macedonian parliament which approved the country’s name change, despite a failed popular referendum.

The Macedonian parliament last weekend narrowly greenlighted the name change which signals a “brighter future” with NATO, but Macedonian voters by-and-large boycotted the referendum, with only 36.9 percent of eligible voters participating.

Earlier, the US State Department had urged the Macedonian opposition to vote for the name change despite the failed referendum, which was rendered invalid due to the low turnout.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer headed to Skopje on Monday to provide support to the country’s pro-Western Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after the knife-edge parliamentary vote on Friday.

Some opposition MPs decided to boycott the vote, standing at the side of the room instead of taking their seats, and the ruling coalition barely secured the required 80 out of 120 majority to push the measure through.

But Russia believes the parliamentary vote was rigged, claiming that eight votes had been secured "through blackmail, and threatening and bribing opposition deputies".

"We view what happened as an open violation of all norms, both from a legal and moral point of view. Such dirty manipulations cannot be regarded as an expression of parliamentarians' will," the Russian ministry said in a statement on Monday.

READ MORE: ‘Macedonia is Greece!’ Thousands march through Athens in country-naming dispute (VIDEO)

Before the vote, some opposition MPs facing terrorism charges were reportedly offered amnesty if they voted with the ruling party to greenlight the name change process, which prompted accusations that the Western-backed Zaev was buying support. 

One opposition MP, Antonio Miloshoski, said the promise of amnesty was “proof that [Zaev] has instrumentalized the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office for political purposes.”

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