Slovenes overwhelmingly voted Sunday in favor of their republic’s secession from Yugoslavia, according to unofficial results.
They voted despite federal threats of armed intervention. The turnout was reported to be 85% of 1.5 million eligible voters.
Initial unofficial results of the plebiscite said that, with 55% of the ballots counted, 94% of the vote was for Slovenia to secede from Yugoslavia and 5% was against. One percent of the ballots were invalid.
Thousands danced and cheered and some uncorked champagne on the streets of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana upon hearing the early results.
“This is a historic night. We have waited for it for 1,000 years,” Slovenian Prime Minister Lojze Peterle said.
Demands for Slovenian independence have been growing since last April, when the republic voted to end Communist rule, in force for 45 years.
Three other Yugoslav republics have also ousted the Communists, leaving only two republics under Communist rule and helping to push Yugoslavia toward a political crisis that diplomats say could end in its disintegration.
Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade said Slovenia’s plebiscite was tantamount to unilateral secession, and they threatened reprisals against the republic.
Although Slovenian leaders have described secession as a final option, the huge vote for independence could encourage them to push for a complete break with Yugoslavia.