Bilal Kasami, leader of the ethnic Albanian BESA party, warned Prime Minister Zoran Zaev that if he fails to respect their demands, BESA will not support the constitutional amendments to rename Macedonia into North Macedonia in the final vote when Zaev will need 81 votes in Parliament.

It is important for us that the majority, the Prime Minister, shows understanding and sees to what extent he can accept our demands. At this point we are not there, and if this continues, the majority will most likely have to find additional votes, Kasami said.

BESA has five members in Parliament, although its group has been divided at times. Zaev recently acknowledged that he is about five votes short of the necessary majority, apparently counting BESA in the “yes” camp. BESA primarily demands changes to the clause that gives additional minority rights to “an ethnic community that makes up more than 20 percent of the population” – a reference clearly made to the ethnic Albanians following the 2001 war and the Ohrid peace treaty. BESA wants this phrase to explicitly say “the Albanian community” and “the Albanian language”.

Zaev has been busy pushing through several rounds of amnesties for former VMRO-DPMNE members of Parliament who his Government has previously charged in various criminal cases to put pressure on them and get them to vote in favor of the amendments to rename Macedonia. Other groups in Parliament aligned with Zaev have also raised various demands, but so far Kasami’s statement is the most serious one about voting against the amendments.