By Misko Taleski
Macedonia’s parliament passed a law through an expedited procedure last weekend that stops the Census Law from being in effect.
The parliament’s action comes after the census was stopped on October 11th, following the State Census Commission (SCC) members’ resignations four days prior to the census’ scheduled ending date.
“The law was not implemented equally in the field which is why we had to stop the census process. Had we not done so, we would have not obtained relevant data,” SCC President Sobodanka Gievska said.
The decision confirmed the presumption of former SCC President Vesna Janevska — who also resigned a day before the census commenced — of coming irregularities.
Numerous critics have raised concerns that a repeat of what they term is a falsified 2002 census — in which ethnic Albanians constitute over 20% of Macedonia’s population — allowing them collective rights and privileges under the Ohrid Framework Agreement, is in the works.
The opposition discounted the critics, accusing the government of incompetence.
“This shame and huge scandal for the country is unheard of. We warned the government is not able to carry any statistical operation such as a census according to the law,” opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) Vice President Ana Pavlovska Daneva said.
The ruling VMRO-DPMNE however, issued a statement insisting it acted precisely because it stands for the rule of law without exception.
“Unlike in 2002, when SDSM allowed false data and removed the Statistical Office director in mid-census, when the then SCC president disputed the results and resigned, and former Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski never explained how they counted 120,000 more Albanians, today the law must be respected,” VMRO spokesperson Aleksandar Bichikliski told SETimes.
Most Albanian officials avoided giving statements. Deputy Prime Minister in charge of implementing the Ohrid Framework Agreement Musa Dzaferi told the media there is nothing to fear, that in several months another census will be organised.
Analyst Vele Mitanovski explained to SETimes that stopping a census from being conducted is a huge step that can only be done with agreement by top officials.
“If the prime minister recognised dangers to the national and state interests, they should be stated publicly, regardless of the consequences to the inter-ethnic relations and [coalition] inter-party relations. The census’ discontinuance perhaps is not the ‘end of the world’ but can be the end of the institutions and the [domestic and international] trust in them,” Mitanovski told SETimes.
The census is the main topic in the Macedonian media.
“It should not have started in such conditions. It is better to end it like this rather than start a new conflict over say 0.5% Albanians above the constitutionally required 20%,” Kanal 5 television editor Goran Momirovski told SETimes.
Many of the 16,000 census workers say it was obvious the census was not to be, but hoped to carry it out successfully.
“You just cannot have some census workers follow the law, while others the Albanian political parties’ instructions,” a Skopje census worker who requested anonymity told SETimes.
“We should truthfully count how many citizens there are in the country so that we will know what to do next. Neither us Albanians nor the Macedonians need tensions. Enough with the problems; let us for once live like people,” Avni Arifi, a 63-year-old Skopje resident who is ethnic Albanian, told SETimes.