COVID-19-Driven Delay of North Macedonia Census Sparks Criticism

Monday's agreement between Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, the leader of the ruling Social Democrats, and the opposition VMRO DPMNE party leader, Hristijan Mickoski, to postpone the nationwide census for six months from April to September due to the COVID-19 crisis has angered members of the ruling coalition as well as opposition parties.

A census postponement "is not a matter for party meetings and press conferences but for parliament", parliament speaker Talat Xhaveri said on Monday after the leaders of the two biggest parties agreed to postpone it.

Xhaferi, from the junior party in the ruling coalition, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, insisted that the two leaders should apologise to DUI chief Ali Ahmeti, who has put a lot of effort into persuading citizens to participate.

The deal to delay the long-awaited headcount, the first since 2002, came as a surprise to many. Zaev and Mickoski agreed to delay it just two days before its scheduled start, amid a fresh surge in COVID-19 infections. Mass vaccination has not yet started due to the late arrival of vaccines.

In exchange for accepting their demands to delay the census, the opposition promised that its MPs will now stop blocking the work of parliament, which should unlock some key bills intended to deal with the country's healthcare and economic crisis.

Zaev angers ethnic Albanian opposition

While this came as a relief for Prime Minister Zaev, whose majority in parliament consists of only 62 out of 120 legislators, the deal has opened the possibility of yet another obstacle in parliament, this time from smaller ethnic Albanian opposition parties.

Angry that such important questions for the country were decided by the two main political...

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