14 February 2020

Kosovo- a new parliament, new government, the issues?...the old ones

Stelian Teodorescu

For the past 30 months, Kosovo passed through three electoral rounds, two parliamentary elections and one cycle of municipal elections. Results proved, once again, that the performance of some political parties depends on elections’ type. After the establishment of a weak parliamentary majority, the expressed political perspectives are different in terms of the real capacity of the new government to actually implement the necessary reforms even if both political groups within the coalition, LVV (Vetevendosje) and LDK (Democratic League in Kosovo), still in electoral campaign, have promised a more prosperous Kosovo in the future. However, there are some hopes that the two main political groups running the country will cooperate more and they will have will and trust to find adequate solutions.

Image source: Mediafax

Numbers and results

After a month defined by significant turbulence within votes’ counting process for the electoral round held on October 6th 2019 and their legitimacy declaration, the Central Electoral Commission in Kosovo (CEC) has announced the final results on November 7th 2019.

At the October 6th 2019 elections they had the best presence at the polls. The 844.121 votes revealed a 44, 72% vote rate, thanks to Diaspora mainly.

Major changes on the political scene

As everyone was expecting, in an extremely tight competition with other political groups, the LVVgroup (Vetevendosje, left political group) ran by Albin Kurti got most of the votes, taking the first place with 221.001 votes or 26,27%, meanwhile LDK (Democratic League in Kosovo, center-right political group), the current coalition partners, got the second place, with 206.516 votes or 24, 54%.

The Democratic Party in Kosovo (PDK) or Kadri Veseli, whose leader was Hashim Thaci for 14 years got the third place with 178.637 votes of 21, 23%, getting the weakest electoral results since 2000. This is because, in 2017, PDK worked in a coalition with AAK/ The Alliance for Kosovo’s Future and the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA), which did not allow the exact identification of the electoral support level that the party got at the previous parliamentary elections. For the first time ever after 12 years of governance, PDK will be in the opposition in Kosovo’s Assembly. The former Kosovar prime-minister, R. Haradinaj, and his coalition, composed of AAK and the Social Democratic Party got hte fourth place, with 96.872 votes or 11, 51%, recording a minimum increase comparing to 2014’s elections, even through this coalition wanted to win these elections.

Another coalition composed of NISMAL, The New Alliance Kosovo (AKR) and the Justice Party (PD) has recorded a weak result also, not managing to pass the minimum 5% level to get in the next phase. However, the Supreme Court decision to exclude Serbia’s votes from the total of votes allowed the NISMA-AKR-PD coalition to enter the Kosovo Assembly with 4.2083 votes, which meant that they crossed the 5% level.

The representation of the Serbian minority in Kosovo is the same, the Sprska List party getting 53.861 votes of 6, 40%.

How hard is it to create a majority. And a new government

Kosovo's new parliament was set up on December 26th, 2019, almost three months after the election, although Kosovo's president, Hasim Thaçi, has repeatedly called on LVV to present the name of the appointed prime minister.

Therefore, A.Kurti and H.Thaçi met on January 6, 2020, and then the latter granted LVV only two days to resolve the request made. After the deadline passed, H.Thaçi asked LVV to present a name as soon as possible, warning, at the same time, that otherwise he could give another party the right to form the government. The LVV has asked President H.Thaçi to end the "pressure" and "political evaluations" on the creation of the new government. In response to H.Thaçi's multiple calls for the LVV to present as the designated prime minister's proposal, the leader of this political party, A.Kurti, argued that it is not the duty of Kosovo’s president to set deadlines for the political parties that won the election. Moreover, A.Kurti claimed that the only constitutional term related to the period wherein the winning party proposes to the president a prime minister name is 15 days (since the establishment of the parliament?), and the party should also get parliament's support for new government’s approval.

The disagreement over the key positions division has significantly influenced the talks between LVV and LDK, however, provoking what Kosovo President H.Thaçi called "a great disappointment for the Kosovo people and the risk of a completely useless constitutional crisis". In his turn, addressing the public opinion in a video message, on 03.02.2020, A.Kurti stressed that they "are forced in front of everyone to return to the negotiating table, to identify a common language and reach out to an agreement".

LVV, which won the general elections in Kosovo on October 6, 2019, ultimately achieved, along with LDK, an extremely fragile majority for the establishment of the new government, after negotiations that lasted three months. 

The repeated failed talks between the two political parties, the LVV and the LDK, has prevented the establishment of a new government and stimulated the process of major reforms, but also the hopes of the US and the EU to restart talks between Serbia and Kosovo to finally normalize relations.

Thus, given the big frustration both internally and internationally, more than three months after the general elections day, Kosovo's president, H.Thaçi, nominated A.Kurti for the position of prime minister in Pristine and the establishment of a new government. Thus, LVV President A.Kurti had 15 days to reach an agreement with LDK on establishing a new government, which will be done almost four months after the elections. If A.Kurti failed to obtain a majority to form the new government, H.Thaçi would have been able to mandate another party, and if this attempt failed again, they could have call on new parliamentary elections in Kosovo.

Kosovo president has given A.Kurti the responsibility to set up and run Kosovo’s government future, even though his political party does not hold a majority for the new government, but it is a fact that the LVV has received the most support from Kosovo voters in the parliamentary elections rom October 6th, 2019.

Hence, after four months of tough negotiations, Kosovo finally got a new government led by LVV leader A.Kurti, on 03.02.2020, the Kosovo Assembly voting in favour of the new government formed by the coalition established by this political party and LDK with 66 votes and ten abstentions. In his speech in front of the Kosovo Assembly, A.Kurti stated that 03.02.2020 was the date when the change voted in the October 6, 2019 elections was institutionalized. He promised that his government would protect the Kosovo's citizens dignity, introduce a system of verification throughout the judicial system, take measures to clean and protect the environment, avoid improper use of public funds and ensure, in two years, health insurance system's functioning . The two former opposition political parties, LVV and LDK, failed to fully keep their promise during the election campaign in reducing ministries’ number that make up the Kosovo government to 12.   

The two political groups discussed the setup of 12 ministries, each taking over five of them and allocating two for ethnic minority communities. However, given the latest decision to establish the Kosovo government, following the Constitution, if a government has more than 12 ministries, minority communities must have at least three ministries, the Serbian community, which is the largest minority always holding two of three ministries granted to minorities.

According to proposals, the new government reduced ministries’ number from 21 to 15, while the deputy ministers’ number was reduced from 80 to 33.

In addition to LDK and LVV, the new governing coalition has six other parliamentary groups representing Bosnians, Serbs, Turks and other ethnic minorities. Following the latest political developments in Pristine, on 04.02.2020, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, welcomed the Kosovo Assembly vote confirming the new government led by Prime Minister A.Kurti. The EU senior official stressed that, in the context of the approved government, he looks forward to intensifying discussions and cooperation between the EU and Kosovo. It was also stressed that the EU will remain committed to working with Kosovo institutions and leaders in order to move forward on the European path, and the new government in Pristina is working hard to implement the provisions of the Stabilization and Association Agreement and the European Agenda reform and for promoting the rule of law and socio-economic development. Josep Borrell emphasized that they should also consolidate regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations, expecting a rapid resumption of the Belgrade-Pristine Dialogue facilitated by EU to contribute to a comprehensive normalization of relations between the two parties. The current situation is not acceptable and there is no alternative to the rapid resumption of talks to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristine.

It was also stressed that Kosovo must restart its commitment, for its own benefit, in regional initiatives and cooperation structures, as Kosovo's challenges are significant, but so is Kosovo's potential. Josep Borrell also underlined that the EU is ready to assist Kosovo on its European reform agenda and to continue to support the rule of law strengthening, improving public administration to provide services that the population deserves.

We have a government? So are we supposed to have a new president as well?

In Kosovo, the electoral processes carried out at the municipal level and for the election of a new parliament seem to be very different from the previous ones, foreshadowing a new generation of politicians on Pristine’s political scene.

The October 2019 results elections confirmed that not only LVV and LDK were able to attract wider popular support throughout Kosovo, but the political party Srpska List strengthens its dominance in the Serbian majority municipalities in Kosovo. Instead, AAK was confirmed as a regional party, lacking significant potential to expand its electoral base beyond the Western region of Kosovo. On Also, the PDK continued its electoral decline, with obvious electoral support only in certain municipalities.

Future developments in Kosovo will be closely linked to the political involvement of the new prime minister, A. Kurti, an involvement that dates back to the late 1990s, when he led student protests against Serbian oppression and became political prisoner in Serbia, between 1999 and 2001. Furthermore, A.Kurti initially formed LVV as a protest movement, in 2005, before the group switched to political party status, in 2010, a party that remained permanently in opposition until when, at the October 6, 2019 elections, it got the first place.

Despite this agreement, the political perspectives are divided on new government’s real capacity to make the necessary reforms, although both political parties within the coalition, LVV and LDK, since the election campaign, promised Kosovo a brighter future. Public opinion hoped to see major changes since LVV won the election, but hopes began to diminish as the negotiation process between political parties continued for months. However, there are hopes that the two main political groups "will be more cooperative", emphasizing in the media that "when there is will and confidence, there are also adequate solutions".

One of the main challenges that Pristine’s government will face, concerns the future and the results of the negotiations with Serbia. In this context, it is noteworthy that, in his election campaign, A.Kurti stressed that they will have a full cooperation with Belgrade in trade, the political and economic field and he will be ready to conduct negotiations with Serbia.

However, we shall not forget that political disagreements have disrupted the negotiations between LVV and LDK and have caused major delays in the formation of the new government in Pristine. The establishment of the new LVV - LDK government will mark the first complete transfer of power between the previous ruling parties and the former political opposition.

So, it can be appreciated that the appointment of Kosovo’s next president by the Kosovo Assembly, after the term of the current president, H.Thaçi, in April 2021, will also trigger a strong competition on Kosovo’s political scene, as A.Kurti and LDK leader Isa Mustafa, in a public press briefing, said that discussions on this issue would continue at a later phase.

Translated by Andreea Soare