Not even started, the census is already inflaming passions
- The proposal for the census in 2020 to omit columns of ethnicity and religious affiliation comes from the State Statistical Office.
- SDSM, VMRO-DPMNE, DUI, BESA and smaller ethnic communities are unanimously opposed – there must be a column for ethnic and religious affiliation.
- Instead of a statistical operation, the census in Macedonia is a political calculation.
Written by: Svetlana Unkovska
Although in many developed countries the census is a normal statistical operation, in Macedonia it cannot happen without political interference. With a delay of ten years, the next census is envisaged to be implemented in about two years. As in 2011, this operation has already begun provoking reactions in Macedonia. With the new census model it is proposed that there should be no column in which citizens would declare their ethnic and religious affiliation, but only questions related to the language they speak.
It is precisely because of the disagreements between the political parties VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, which in 2011 were in power, that the census failed. For this case, the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) opened a case against the then VMRO-DPMNE and DUI leaders, Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti, regarding the decision to end the census, which damaged the budget for about three million euros.
SSO: WE WILL NOT ALLOW POLITISATION OF THE CENSUS
The proposal for the census in 2020 to omit columns of ethnic and religious affiliation comes from the State Statistical Office. According to the director of this institution, Apostol Simovski, data on the affiliation of a people have no useful value and are susceptible to political abuse. Therefore, as he says, instead of questions about ethnic and religious affiliation, there will be two questions – what is the person’s mother tongue and which language is spoken in the household.
“There has not been a census that was not the target of politicization, the ethnic component being most politicized. Therefore, we are ready to give up some aspect, but we will not allow politicization. Let me remind you, this is a statistical operation. According to our Constitution, the rights of a certain group of citizens derive from the language they speak, not from ethnicity”, said Simovski.
Former State Statistical Office director Doncho Gerasimovski says that the issue of ethnicity was previously observed in all censuses, but in most of the developed countries this is avoided.
“It is necessary to carry out deep analyses beforehand, and to understand the need for data on ethnicity. To see whether this issue has an impact in the Constitution and many laws. The institutions in the country should sit down and give an assessment, with a proposal from a professional point of view whether it is necessary. We need a census, because according to UN recommendations, every country is obliged to implement it every 10 years, and we must respect that”, Gerasimovski pointed out.
POLITICAL PARTIES INSIST ON COLUMNS FOR ETHNICITY AND RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION
Our political system is based on numbers, i.e. percentage representation, therefore it is unclear how it will function if we do not have the data on ethnic representation. But for the implementation of the largest statistical operation, it is necessary to adopt a Law on Census that should be prepared by the Government, and adopted by the Parliament. Hence the definitive decision on these issues will again be political.
The ruling SDSM says that according to them, it is necessary to have a column for ethnicity.
“This is a proposal of the State Statistical Office, but it is logical for us to have a column for ethnic affiliation. It is planned to test the system next year before the census is implemented in 2020 so we will see how it will go. However, the Government should prepare the draft Law on Census, and we will see what solution it will offer, but according to SDSM, it is logical to have a column for ethnicity”, Kostadin Kostadinov, SDSM’s spokesman told us.
The opposition VMRO-DPMNE say that this topic is abused in the public by the SDSM, but leave room to see what kind of law will be proposed by the government.
“It is important for the census to be a statistical rather than a political operation, and it is therefore necessary to strictly follow the methodology of the European statistical agency Eurostat and the UN, including having a mechanism for control of a permanent place of residence and residence in the state, as well as guarantees of authenticity of personal data and biometric confirmation of the identity of the persons”, says Naum Stoilkovski, VMRO-DPMNE’s spokesman.
Albanian political parties have the same position that expression of the ethnic affiliation is necessary at the census.
Artan Grubi from DUI thinks that the model that is now being proposed is contrary to the manner in which the rights of Albanians in Macedonians are determined.
“We are aware that the process of the census of the population in our country cannot be just an ordinary statistical process, but also a political process due to constitutional changes and the Framework agreement that determines the rights of the communities in Macedonia through percentages”, Grubi said.
According to Zijadin Sela from the Alliance of Albanians, the proposal will strike the form of the state’s functioning and the balance between ethnic communities.
“The announcement that the census will contain a column only for the language aims to artificially increase the number of the population speaking Macedonian and hence to hide the demographic reality in Macedonia. We call on all Albanian subjects that are part of the government to oppose this proposal”, emphasised Sela.
Both wings of the movement Besa are against this proposal too.
“A very dubious element, now we are renouncing the ethnic element, whereas the ethnic element is in the Constitution, it is in the positive laws in the country”, said Fadil Zendeli.
According to Afrim Gashi from the other wing of Besa, language cannot replace ethnic affiliation.
“According to us linguistic identity does not always cover ethnic identity. There are many people that for one reason or another speak one or several languages, but have one ethnic affiliation”, says Gashi.
REACTIONS FROM THE SMALLER ETHNIC COMMUNITIES
There have been many reactions from the smaller communities too, saying that their ethnic affiliation is different from the language they speak, therefore this model will not show the real image of the demographic situation in the country.
Demir Dalip from the Coalition of the Egyptians says that many generations have completed their education in Macedonian. There are also reactions from the Roma community saying that many Roma people speak Turkish. The Bosniak community consider that the question regarding the mother tongue and the language spoken cannot determine precisely the number of an ethnic community, therefore a census without ethnic and religious affiliation puts into question the multi-ethnic character of this country.