Sunday, February 20, 2011

Albanians, Turks, Quit Macedonian Census Commission

Walk-out by ethnic Albanian and Turkish members of the commission adds to the list of headaches facing the crisis-hit head count, which is supposed to take place in April.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Representatives of Macedonia's largest ethnic minority, Albanians, and of one of its smaller groups, Turks, have quit the census commission in a row over the number of ethnic minority members joining the 8,500-strong force tasked with collecting the data.

Among those quitting the commission were its own vice-president, Abdulmenaf Bexheti.

The six Albanians and two Turks said they were unhappy with the way the Macedonian majority on the commission was selecting census-takers.

"This concept reflects the distrust felt towards Albanians, Turks and others," the six Albanian members said in a joint statement. They conditioned their return to the commission with changes to the selection process.

“We cannot accept not having a single Turkish [census official] in municipalities containing 46,000 Turks," the two Turkish commission members, Sali Murat and Havza Rexhep, said.

The head of the census commission, Vesna Janevska, declined to comment on the boycott.

Some media suggested that the walk-out from the commission was arranged in coordination with the government's junior coalition party, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI. The party has not yet stated its position on the boycott.

Last December, the two main ethnic Albanian opposition parties, the New Democracy and the Democratic Party of Albanians, announced that they would boycott the census unless it was postponed from April to July.

The parties accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's main ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, of setting the date in April because many ethnic Albanians are out of the country in spring, working temporarily aboard.

They wanted the vote put back to July, when people working abroad usually return home on summer vacation.

The last census in Macedonia was in 2002. Results showed that 64.2 per cent of population were Macedonian and 25.2 per cent were ethnic Albanian. Roma, Turks, Serbs and other minorities made up the rest.

The census took place a year after the signing of the 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord, which ended a short-lived armed conflict in the country between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The Ohrid deal guaranteed more rights for ethnic Albanians.

No comments: