Academic journal article Population

Censuses, Elections and Population: The Case of Macedonia

Academic journal article Population

Censuses, Elections and Population: The Case of Macedonia

Article excerpt

Two censuses have been held in the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia since its separation and independence from Yugoslavia (1991). The first took place in 1994 and the second between 1 and 15 November 2002. The intercensal interval of only eight years is noteworthy for its shortness. Noteworthy too is the close international monitoring that accompanied these censuses. Repeating the experience of 1994, some fifty European observers travelled around the country for three weeks in order to verify the transparency of the census operations - a presence that could be thought excessive in view of the small size of the population, some two million inhabitants.

Macedonia belongs to that group of countries or entities, often of recent creation, in which the question of number has disproportionate importance on account of the precarious nature of state structures and because national, ethnic or religious groups are competing for the political, material and symbolic resources linked to control of the state. The conflicts in Macedonia recall those in neighbouring formations such as Kosovo, where Albanians and Serbs were in conflict, and BosniaHerzegovina. Looking farther afield, however, other conflict situations can be mentioned: Northern Ireland in western Europe, Israel and Palestine or Cyprus in the Near East, or even South Africa during apartheid. The list is a long one and here we mention merely a few prominent cases, in each of which, despite the differences of context, demography is not a neutral factor but a crucial lever for the sharing out or conquest of power. In Macedonia, distrust between ethnic groups - in particular between the Macedonians and Albanians, who suspect each other of manipulating the numbers question - has taken hold since independence.

The 2002 Census was held a few months after the "drôle de guerre" (phoney war)(1) which came to an end thanks to the Ohrid agreements, and a few days after the elections of 15 September 2002 which officialized the birth of the "new Macedonia" in accord with the spirit of those agreements. Signed on 13 August 2001, after pressure was applied notably by the European Union, NATO and OSCE(2) they ended an armed conflict between Macedonian troops and Albanian paramilitary forces (National Liberation Army) that had lasted from January to July 2001.

The logic of demography underlies the Ohrid agreements. Because the results of the 1994 Census had been rejected by the Albanians, a second census, even more closely monitored by the international community, was laid down as a condition. Political and administrative representation had to be closely modelled on demographic representation. The agreements established a hierarchy of ethnic groups according to their demographic importance, with the 20% threshold having force of law. From being merely an ethnic minority, the Albanians became a main component in the structures of the nation and state. Albanian acquired, albeit not explicitly, the status of official language. Constitutional, legal, administrative, linguistic, university and other measures were aimed at reducing Macedonia's "ethno-democracy" character and at making it "the state of all its citizens". Regional demographies were also taken into account, to sanction decentralization of the state apparatus in favour of the 123 municipal districts, where minority groups were authorized to use their language for official purposes, on condition that the group represented more than 20% of the population.

After presenting the main elements in the ethnic and religious composition of Macedonia (section I), we offer some explanations for the fertility differentials (section II). Although these contribute to produce variations in the different populations present, is there any evidence for the assertion that the first census after independence (1994)(3) was biased? We address the question of numbers by reference to a census carried out during the Yugoslav era (section III) and then to the free and internationally monitored legislative elections of 2002, which can be used for an indirect enumeration of these populations (section IV). …

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