Macedonia halts census after dispute

Macedonia halts census after dispute

SKOPJE - Agence France-Presse

The Macedonian parliament Oct. 15 approved the halting of a census after alleged attempts to artificially boost the number of ethnic Albanians and Turkish minorities by presenting fake IDs led to the resignation of the counting body.

The multi-ethnic governing coalition said in a statement late Oct. 12 that it had decided to end the census, which began on Oct. 1, after the commission in charge resigned Oct. 11 saying the results would not be reliable. The opposition walked out of the vote over the failure to launch a probe whether organizers were responsible for supposedly inflating numbers.

Justice Minister Blerim Bexheti said the problems were caused by a “lack of a timeframe to educate” inexperienced staff. He said all census material collected would be destroyed. The new census will be held next year, parliament officials said. Problems arose when ethnic Albanian census takers accepted as proof of residence copies of the identity documents of Albanians who have lived abroad for more than a year, from their family members left behind. There has been a dispute about the interpretation of the law, with Macedonian residents and commission members protesting the practice.

 On the eve of the census, the head of the census commission resigned in protest against plans announced by ethnic Albanian and Turkish minorities to present fake IDs to census takers. The country’s last population census in 2002 showed that 64 percent of the population of some two million people was Macedonian, and 25 percent ethnic Albanians. The Balkans country was on the brink of civil war in 2001 as ethnic Albanians launched an armed uprising demanding more rights. A seven-month conflict ended with an internationally-brokered peace agreement guaranteeing minority rights.