18 October 2019

Early parliamentary elections in Kosovo - The opposition will take the power. And the problems as well…

Stelian Teodorescu

The early parliamentary elections from Kosovo will transfer the power to the opposition. Being for years surrounded by power, the young politician, Albin Kurti, leader of Vetevendosje (LVV), has the greatest chances for becoming prime-minister, meanwhile the former chief of the Kosovar executive, Ramush Haradinaj, continues his purgatory in Hague. Elections’ results made A. Kurti state, purely from a politician perspective, that starting the second day after the election, Kosovo “is no longer the country of unemplyment”. More than a week after the elections, the governing coalition is still being negotiated, and Kosovo’s perspectives are still tied to Serbia. Vetevendosje/Self-determination’s leader knows that, despite the economic issues, Kosovo’s independence will only make it half way if it will not solve the conflict with Belgrade. And that can only be done after cancelling the custom overtaxes.

Image source: Mediafax

Elections’ organization and development- statistics

The electoral campaign was dominated by debates on corruption, unemployment’s rate[1] and a possible agreement with Serbia, which did not recognize yet Kosovo’s independence.

Of all the 1.937.868 people who have the right to vote, at the 2.547 polling stations, there were recorded only 43.20% of voters.

The attorneys have registered 16 contraventions within this electoral process, and 20 people got arrested for blocking up the vote process.

Also, EU observers[2] have stated that the electoral process was “well-managed and transparent”, but they highlighted some shortcomings, including the “intimidation” of Serbian ethnics by their main political force. The observers have warned, also, on the lack of financial transparency of the political parties and have asked the next Kosovo Assembly to urgently address the completion of the legislation to regulate electoral process’s development.

Hopes and comedowns

After counting 80% of the votes within the electoral process, the forecasts for the future Kosovo Assembly configuration started to become trustable.

According to information issued on 09.10.2019, Vetevendosje (LVV) has the first position, with 25,49% of electorate’s options (31 positions in the parliament), and the second place is occupied by the Democratic League from Kosovo (DLK), with 24,82% of the options (30 positions). The Kosovo Democratic Party has the third place, with 21,24% of the votes (25 positions), meanwhile on the fourth place there is Haradinaj’s coalition, with 11.57% of the votes (14 positions). The other 20 positions in Kosovo’s Assembly accrues to national minorities, as follows: 10 positions- Srpska Lista, 2 positions, the Bosnian group Vakat Coalition, 2 positions- the Turkish Democratic Party, one position the Egyptian Liberal Party, one position the New Democratic Party, one position the Ashkali For Integration Party, one position the Ashkali Democratic Party, one position the Unified Party of the Gorans and one position the Unified Party of the Roma.

On 11.10.2019, there were 30.000 votes left to be counted, coming from the Kosovar diaspora through correspondence, but they cannot have a significant importance for the final result.

As for elections’ results the leaders of the main political party, stated:

- K. Veseli, leader of PDK, admitted his defeat, underlining, within a press conference, that: “We didn’t win. The PDK will go into opposition and we will continue to serve the nation and the state”.

-LVV leader, A. Kurti, underlined that his party is “Vetevendosje’s victory is a national celebration”. Furthermore, LVV leader underlined that “starting with 06.10.2019, Kosovo is no longer the country of unemployment, inequality and arbitrariness, but of development, progress and justice”.

-also, Vsoja Osmani (LDK candidate for the prime-minister position), highlighted that, as for the “the winner can only be declared once all the ballots are counted”. V. Osmani also added that “finally, citizens not only that they voted, but through their votes they asked for change and the punishment of bad governing”. Moreover, she added: “For me, there is no other alternative. A LDK-LVV coalition has many challenges ahead, but it should have one interest only: the Kosovar citizens.”

-R. Haradinaj, the prime-minister who resigned and leader of AAK, wanted to mention that “the decision to return decision-making to the voters proved right”, and the “fair and peaceful competition has raised Kosovo and its citizens to a higher standard of political and democratic maturity, by serving as a model in the region”.

-the Serbian president, Aleksandr Vucic, wanted to draw the attention on the votes received by the “Srpska Lista” (SL), a political party supported by Serbia, which got 98% of the votes in Mitrovica and more than 90% in the other mostly Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. Also, A. Vucic wanted to highlight that SL “Srpska Lista has won its most convincing victory in its history. This is one of my favorite wins, because it happened under the most difficult conditions”.

-Dalibor Jevtic, one of the LS leaders stated that it would be impossible to create a new government in Pristina without negotiating with his party. Given this context, he quoted the article 96 from the Constitution, which says that “the Serbian representative of the Kosovar government will be chosen by most of the Serbian deputies in the Parliament”. This statement was made after A. Kurti expressed his intention on not negotiating to support LS governing.

The defeated parties did not bang on about irregularities and they even hurried to recognize the final results, which could be regarded as a sign of democratic maturity.

Negotiations are starting… but also the compromises

The two former opposition parties, LVV and LDK, which got most of the votes at the recent parliamentary elections in Kosovo, expressed their intention on getting to an agreement to create a coalition, only four days after the Kosovar voters called on a new Kosovo Assembly, revealing their interest in creating the new government in Pristina.

Therefore, A. Kurti met, on 10.10.2019, with the LDK leader, I. Mustafa, and the LDK prime-minister candidate, V.Osmani, to discuss about a possible governing coalition. Within these discussions, they have addressed including the diminution of ministries’ number from 21 to 12 across the future Kosovar executive and the inclusion of 30% women in the following Pristina executive.

After the meeting, A. Kurti stated that “we have started the discussion commonly thinking that establishing a more effective government and a stronger state”. On his turn, V. Osmani mentioned that “both political groups showed their willingness to govern jointly and work in the benefit of their citizens, but before getting there, we will expect elections’ final results”.

The early parliamentary elections results are revealing a possible new political era for Kosovo, an entity whose leaders were, previously, marked by the image created once with the participation at the former Yugoslavia’s ethnic conflict at the end of the 90’s.

What would be next

It is less likely to create a whole new stable government in Pristina in such short time. Furthermore, the establishment of a realistic governing program may result a little difficult and, most likely, it will need some time and willingness to make compromises, even if LVV and LDK have cooperated really well as opposed political parties, being united by the common hostility against H. Thaci and the former Kosovar parliamentary majority.

From an ideological perspective, the future coalition is far from being homogenous. Therefore, it may emerge some tensions that could lead to important conflicts between LVV, a political group that is running Kosovo for the first time, and LDK, a renewed political group, which was part of the structure that ran Kosovo for the past decade, except the last two years.

LVV’s victory came mostly thanks to the promise to take down a system affected by corruption, nepotism and incompetence. LVV’s political program aims at solving the social and economic problems, but also A. Kurti is perfectly aware that the future of his political group and a new Kosovar government will mainly depend on restarting the dialogue with Serbia, which is now on “pause”.

Surprisingly, after the polling stations were closed. A. Kurti expressed one of his biggest controversial stance so far. He reiterated his support for getting united with Albania, something also previously supported, but he now called on the necessity to organize a referendum for it, however, not sure if possible in the next period.

As for imposing 100% custom taxes for the products from Serbia, measures taken by the former govern led by R. Haradinaj, which have worsened and blocked the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, A. Kurti promised that he will eliminate them and that “instead of obligations, he wants a mutuality policy, and Belgrade, for example, will have to accept the documents with <<Kosovo Republic>> in it”.

However, despite the opened attitude, including in terms of managing the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, which until now proved to be mostly a prerogative of Kosovar president H. Thaci, we can note that A. Kurti’s leadership will not cool down the relations that quickly and will not ease the negotiations with Belgrade, at least not until the next elections in Serbia, planned for April 2020.

Until that happens, A. Kurti will have to face the challenges related to establishing a government able to face the shocks and pressures of the Belgrade-Pristina relation and, implicitly, the recognition process of Kosovo’s independence on an international plan.

Translated by Andreea Soare

[1] Unemployment’s rate got to 25%.

[2] 108 EU observers have monitored the elections, at a national level, in Kosovo.