No census without parties

Goran Adamovski

Kosovo will conduct a population census in 2021. It has already conducted a census in 2011, but in the meantime, the country administratively counted its voters in order to update its voter list. The country can always calculate how many residents it has, all it has to do, for instance, is check how many valid IDs it has issued.
But that seemingly simple thing in our country is also the subject of political debate, the formation of working groups, bargaining and tedious negotiations. Something that is considered normal to other countries, in Macedonia has been so absurd that the director of the State Statistical Office literally begs political parties to sit down, agree and enact the census law so it can be implemented by springtime.
In fact, all politicians know that population and household censuses are extremely important for state organization, elections, education, healthcare, social politics, and development of economy. The problem is that they are captives of the parties and ethnic communities they represent. Unfortunately, they always come first, far ahead of other interests, even those of the state.
In a country so divided in all spheres of society, the population census is probably seen only as a necessary operation to see how many Albanians live here, if and how well above the famous twenty percent that provide them with a range of amenities, including the law on the use of languages. And that is the main reason why the Albanian parties are particularly sensitive to this issue. Why is the opposition always complaining about who, how and when it will enumerate, especially in villages where there are no members of the dominant population in the country. And why the government is pushing for the next spring, half a year before the end of its term, to carry out the operation that was last performed 17 years ago.
And when we dare look truth in the eye, we will easily realize that our political elites have not evolved much in the past three decades. That’s why we are where we are.
That the population census will take place in April 2020 was announced back in December 2018. Ten months later, the ruling and opposition parties are still debating whether the census can be postponed to 2021, whether it is possible for it to be in charge of a collective body of experts, and not the director of the State Statistical Office, whether the census can only be carried out with a personal identification number or the person will have to have an ID, birth certificate or passport, then who will be able to provide data on persons outside the country, whether the persons who will be enumerated electronically will be considered a resident, how many enumerators will be hired, whether citizens will be issued a document on the spot to check the data entered into the application, etc.
Actually, they used to debate, because the working groups of SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE had not met since August. And now they casually say they have no plans to meet with each other, because their views remain diametrically opposed. As for their DUI friends, who lead the parliamentary committee on European affairs, are not scheduling a session.
The census law is crucial because without it an ad for enumerators, premises and other cannot be released, although it has already provided a budget. It can be adopted by an absolute majority of 61 MPs, which is not a problem for the government. But if there is no agreement with VMRO-DPMNE, the opposition may call for a boycott so the whole operation makes no sense. And why go with risky operation and get numbers that don’t suit anyone?
After all, for that reason, the 2011 census was delayed just three days before completion. Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti made different arrangements, so they realized it was better to end the competition at once. They may have calculated that they will one day be held accountable, but they will never really pay the price for it.
Unless a miracle happens overnight and the parties find common ground, the census will yet again be abandoned for some other time. We keep hoping for better days, even though with parties like ours, it’s highly unlikely we will ever see them.