During a TV interview, VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski addressed the controversial law which should govern the 2020 census, and which provides that emigrants would be counted along with the residents, using online apps. It’s a key request from the Albanian parties, who face a significant drop as a share of population due to large emigration. VMRO raised the prospect of boycotting the census if the opposition is not involved in the preparation of the law.

We are not opposed to holding a census. But what is being fast-tracked without a say from the opposition is contrary to European standards, and resembles more a political trade in which Zaev is paying back his debts. The way it is proposed, it would include all individuals who have once obtained a citizenship number, but there is no knowing if they still live in Macedonia, or are even alive, Mickoski said.

Macedonia already has data on its citizens, using the citizenship number issued at birth, and by cross referencing data from several institutions it is possible to determine whether a citizen is still alive and living in the country. The census, Mickoski said, was meant to confirm this data about current residents, and not count citizens living outside of the country or deceased people.

During the elections we had citizens listed in the election rolls who are deceased. There were others who have renounced their citizenship. We have guidelines from Eurostat on what we should do, we don’t have to make anything up, we just have to implement the European standards, Mickoski said.

The Zaev Government is entirely reliant on Albanian votes and coalition support from Albanian parties to keep itself afloat and this has left Zaev very little leverage to resist demands from the Albanian parties. A key Albanian request regarding the census is to include emigrants and to allow online polling of citizens.