Ankara backs Turkish complaints over North Macedonia census results

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North Macedonia carried out its census in September. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKY

Turkey said on Thursday it supports legitimate demands by Turks in North Macedonia for a fair and transparent census, following claims by a local ethnic Turkish association that the number of Turks registered in the recent census is unrealistic.

“During the process [the census]representatives of the country’s Turkish community [North Macedonia] made several calls for the counting of the workforce to be carried out in a fair, transparent and without [leaving space for] some doubts. The census results showed that these calls were unfortunately ignored,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç told media on Thursday.

This came after the National Coordinating Body for the Census of the Turkish People in North Macedonia, a body which brings together Turkish NGOs, political parties and intellectuals, rejected the results of the head count which did not show only a marginal increase in the number of Turks.

“We consider the published figures and the percentage of Turks unrealistic, and as such we are not going to accept the census results,” he said.

“The rights of the Turkish people, who are part of the state-building communities in the Republic of North Macedonia, have been violated,” the umbrella body told BIRN.

The count results, released on Wednesday, showed that the Turkish community remains the third largest, with more than 70,000 people, or 3.86% of the Turkish population.

This is barely one hundred percent higher than the previous count in 2002, which showed 3.85 percent.

This body which was formed in 2021 with the specific task of monitoring the count of the Turkish population in the country, as part of the national census which took place in September, hoped that the results would show many more Turks. They estimated that at least six percent of the country’s population were Turks.

He complained that during the count, they repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the methodology and the shortcomings of the census which decreased the number of Turks.

They indicated that there was an insufficient number of Turkish enumerators and instructors in the field, as well as frequent census interruptions caused by the non-functioning of the census application in the country as well as in the country. foreigner, among the diaspora.

Furthermore, they stated that the population was not sufficiently informed about the census and that despite the fact that the census documents were available in different languages, including Turkish, there were problems with the translation in Turkish forms available online.

Thus, “we will use to the maximum, all legal and democratic rights to oppose the results of the census”, declared the organization.

North Macedonia finally carried out the long-awaited census in 2021 and published the results on Wednesday. This is the first census for 20 years, the previous one having taken place in 2002.

The count had previously suffered several delays, mainly due to inter-ethnic concerns, the main one being the number of ethnic Macedonians compared to Albanians and suspicions that either could try to inflate or deflate the number of Albanian.

However, this time Albanian political parties did not make a big splash and after the release of the results accepted the result which showed that the country’s population had decreased by 9.2% in two decades since the last census.

The population now stands at 1,836,713, which is 185,834 people less than the number recorded in the previous census carried out in 2002.

The new results show that, of the resident population, 58.44% are ethnic Macedonians and 24.3% are ethnic Albanians. Of the rest, 3.86% are ethnic Turks, 2.53% are Roma, 1.3% are Serbs, 0.87% are Bosniaks and 0.47% are Vlachs.

Although the process was marred by technical difficulties and calls for a boycott by one of the opposition parties, called Left, citing suspicions of rigging, the head of the National Statistics Office, Apostol Simovski, insisted that the operation had been “carried out successfully and professionally”. and that “the results reflect reality”.

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