In a TV interview, DUI party leader Ali Ahmeti openly supported the notion that the census should include every citizen who owns some property in Macedonia – even those who have long moved out and maintain only nominal presence in the country.

Macedonia already has a largely accurate database of citizens, which includes hundreds of thousands of emigrants, many of whom have little intention to ever return to the country. Albanian political parties fear that excluding these categories of citizens from the census – which is a database of active residents – would reduce the Albanian share of the population to below 20 percent. That would reveal Ahmeti’s two decades in power as a failure for his community and would reduce his political clout – not least by putting some of the non-residents on a list of voters that require extra scrutiny on election day. Albanians already have an exceptionally low election day turnout rate, and purging the election rolls from non-residents could cost Ahmeti dearly during the next elections.

We will register all those who live here, and those who have valid documents and who can register through their relatives. We know how many people live here and how many are abroad, but they are all citizens of this country, Ahmeti said, insisting that the Albanian share of the population can’t be lower than the 25 percent registered during the last census in 2002, which was also marred by controversies.

The VMRO-DPMNE party, which opposed the census law in its current form because of the total lack of security measures and the inclusion of emigrants as residents, noted that DUI will have full control over the final result which make the census a political operation.

The deputy manager of the Statistics Bureau will have the right to block any move linked to the census, said Timco Mucunski from VMRO-DPMNE, speaking about the DUI appointed manager Ilmi Selami. “If this is a purely statistical operation, why did they insist on giving the deputy manager veto rights?”.