SKOPJE — North Macedonia’s lawmakers have passed a bill that could pave the way for the Balkan country to hold this spring its first census in almost 20 years.
The bill on Population Census and Households was adopted by a slim majority of 62 lawmakers in the 120-member legislature, with the right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party boycotting the vote.
The draft law was pushed by the Social Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, whose coalition includes ethnic Albanian parties.
The national headcount is scheduled for April 1-21, but the long overdue process is being threatened by the VMRO-DPMNE, which has questioned the census methodology.
The party has vowed to collect signatures from the public to nullify the legislation and warned it would not recognize the results if the census goes ahead.
Skopje has not organized a census since 2002, with attempts to hold new population counts being hampered by political disputes involving the issue of the size of ethnic minorities, particularly the ethnic Albanian community.
The data is sensitive because the constitution lays out special rights for minority groups making up at least 20 percent of the national or local population.
The country’s population is believed to have shrunk significantly from the 2.1 million figure recorded in 2002, and the lack of new data has complicated efforts to plan for the economy and education system, as well as to update election lists.