Today’s session in the Macedonian Parliament was postponed from 13h to 15h and still hasn’t started. Previously Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that he still doesn’t have the necessary two thirds of the votes to push forward a vote on the four amendments that would rename Macedonia into North Macedonia.

Zaev said that he counts the vote of Panco Minov, member of Parliament from Kavadarci who was elected on the VMRO-DPMNE led list, as a “yes” vote. This comes after a company related to Minov’s political ally Mitko Jancev received a significant public contract. But, some of the eight members of Parliament now removed from VMRO-DPMNE after joining Zaev in October to open the process to amend the Constitution, are saying they are having second thoughts. This comes after the ethnic Albanian party BESA said it will not support the amendments unless the “Macedonian” designation for nationality is not removed completely from the text. This goes beyond even what Greece demanded of Zaev, who said that the two groups – BESA and the eight former VMRO-DPMNE members, have mutually exclusive positions.

Zaev was specifically asked about Elizabeta Kanceska – Milevska, from the ex-VMRO group, and said that she knows all the details of the proposals but is still not a certain “yes” vote. As a former Culture Minister, she was pressured by Zaev to vote in favor of the amendments using a criminal charge for abuse of office against her. While three members of Parliament of this group already negotiated and received amnesty, a change to the Criminal Code which would mean Kanceska – Milevska and several others would avoid prison is in the works but still has not been finalized, which could be contributing to their hesitation to vote with Zaev today.

I still can’t say whether we’ll have 80 votes, or 79, or 82, or 88. Nobody can say that. I believe that the process of talks which went on gives us a chance to believe we can secure the necessary 80 votes, said Zaev, still insisting that a two thirds majority is 80 and not 81 votes our of the 120 members of Parliament. Zaev said that if he fails, he will convene the SDSM party Central Committee and will accept responsibility.

Meanwhile protests continue in front of the Parliament. Yesterday the protesters were joined by VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski and today leading party officials were again there. VMRO-DPMNE is boycotting the vote and only Panco Minov was seen inside the building from their group, although a number of its representatives still face criminal charges and are likely being pressured to vote with Zaev. Mickoski is expected to address the protesters later today.