A poll by the SIA VISTA institute shows that over half of the citizens do not trust the Zaev Government to hold a fair and competent census. Zaev is pushing for a census in April, and has accepted demands from ethnic Albanian parties that emigrants are counted as actual residents – a demand that is meant to keep the Albanian share of the total population above 20 percent.

The poll showed that 59.2 percent of the citizens “do not think that the state institutions have the capacity needed to conduct a fair and objective census”. Only 35.5 percent think the Government is capable of doing this.

Even more worryingly, 49.3 percent fear that the census, which involves having teams over to your home and conduct a lengthy survey, is a threat to public health. Some 34.4 percent think it is not a threat. Additionally, 56.2 percent believe that there needs to be a full political consensus for the poll, while 35.4 percent don’t think so.

The opposition VMRO-DPMNE party accused Zaev’s SDSM party of accepting demands from its Albanian partner DUI that will skew and distort the actual ethnic break-down of the residents of Macedonia. SDSM rejected all proposals from VMRO meant to ensure that the count is accurate, such as using a fingerprint scanner to avoid double-counting. In response, SDSM is mounting a PR campaign to threaten citizens with up to five years in prison if they refuse to participate in the census and is accusing VMRO of trying to boycott the process (VMRO is collecting signatures to have the law nullified, but did not call for a boycott).

Former VMRO leader and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski added his voice to those insisting that there should not be a boycott, but that Macedonia needs a fair and accurate count.

I have never supported the use of boycotts in politics, and I have shown this in key moments. A boycott won’t resolve the problems, and it can often make them worse. But if there is no political consensus on the census law, the census will create even bigger frustrations in the public and it is possible that a share of the citizens act in this way, even though it’s irrational for the outcome, Gruevski said, adding that the Government will be all too happy to accept the final result of the census, whether there is a boycott or not. Gruevski initiated the holding of a census in 2011, but then stopped it in the middle of the operation, as it became clear that the results from emigration hit Albanian areas are being forged, with emigrants living in Western Europe or North America being counted as residents.

Current party leader Hristijan Mickoski said that the party wants the census to be a clear statistical operation, and not a political one. And the party spokesman Naum Stoilkovski again today accused the ruling coalition of “auctioning the numbers of the ethnic break-down of the country, to keep up with the demands from DUI as a representative of the Albanian community”. DUI officials said that they will not recognize the outcome if Albanians are below 25 percent.