North Macedonia Launches Diaspora Headcount as Boycott Calls Grow

North Macedonia's long-overdue national census, a key operation that the country has failed to carry out for 19 years due to ethnic and political interference, is already facing serious attempts to disrupt it.

As the country launched the first phase of the headcount on Monday, with an on-line application that would allow citizens living abroad to register - which they will have until March 21 to do - the main right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party has started working on collecting signatures to thwart the process in parliament.

The opposition party insists that the census results will be rigged to show proportions already agreed between the ethnic Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanians who make up the country's largest minority, reflecting the wishes of the Social Democratic Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his main ethnic Albanian government partner, Ali Ahmeti, of the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

VMRO DPMNE on Monday said it had already collected some 80,000 signatures, which is close to the 100,000 it needs to file a motion in parliament to try to thwart the Census Law.

However, by the time it actually files the motion, which is expected to happen in two or three weeks, the registering of the diaspora will likely be over.

Soon after that first phase, on April 1, the country plans to kick off the main and most cumbersome phase of the operation, collecting data from citizens within the country.

Using the same complaint, that the results will be rigged by the government, an informal movement called "Don't Open the Door" [to census officials] is also calling on citizens to boycott the headcount and not let census takers inside their homes.

The census law envisages fines of a few hundred euros for...

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