After the Parliament adopted the controversial law on the 2021 census, all eyes are now on President Pendarovski, who did not sign it immediately. Pendarovski said that he will consult experts, as the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party points to problems with the law – mainly the fact that it will count emigrants as residents – under pressure from the ethnic Albanian parties who demanded this option to boost their share of population.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev declared Pendarovski’s signing of the law a done deal, especially after the influential US Ambassador welcomed the law and insisted it has opposition support – through the two opposition ethnic Albanian parties who voted for it.
I don’t see a part of a percentage chance to postpone the census. I’m happy that the President of the country will have a second look on the law with an unbiased eye, so that we don’t have a situation where the Government claims one thing and the Macedonian opposition another. The Albanian opposition already voted for the law. And Pendarovski will reveal his position, likely at the start of next week, Zaev said.
Pendarovski has fully supported Zaev’s positions so far in his term, but likes to create an impression of independent thinking from time to time. VMRO-DPMNE official Timco Mucunski, on the other hand, said that the he hopes Pendarovski will consult objective and independent experts who will easily confirm the objections VMRO-DPMNE raised with the entire procedure.
Meanwhile, Zaev’s coalition partner Ali Ahmeti from the DUI party said that there is no chance the Albanian share of population drops below 25 percent. This is the big issue in the census – the high emigration rate and the numerous dual citizenships, especially among ethnic Albanians, could reduce their share of actual residents, but the Albanian parties insisted that long term emigrants from the country are counted among the residents. Ahmeti insisted that an Albanian official added to the State Statistics Bureau has the right to block any move linked to the census that is not to his liking, and will also have to sign off on the final results, which caused outrage in the public and allegations that the numbers will be massaged to preserve the political clout and influence of the Albanian parties.
In an interview with Voice of America, US Ambassador Kate Byrnes welcomed the adoption of the law, and the support the two Albanian opposition parties, AA and Alternative, gave in the Parliament.