Early parliamentary elections in Kosovo

Kosovo’s National Assembly agreed on 6 May to dissolve parliament on 7 May. 90 representatives voted to dissolve the 120-seat parliament. The decision to dissolve the national assembly came after Members of Parliament failed to reach agreement on two key issues: the transformation of the existing Kosovo Security Forces into the Kosovo Armed Forces and reserved seats for ethnic minorities in parliament. Parliamentary leaders were unable to reach an agreement about the political deadlock and thus voted to dissolve parliament. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for September 2014 but are now to take places on Sunday 8 June.

An army in exchange for seats

Parliament was supposed to vote on the transformation of the existing Kosovo Security Forces into the Kosovo Armed Forces on Monday 5 May, but the vote got postponed. Representatives of the Serb minority fear a Kosovo army might infringe on their political rights and they boycotted the vote. The constitutional changes needed to establish the army, requires the support of two-thirds of the minority votes, making Serb support crucial.

Ethnic Serbs demand that ethnic minorities get a minimum of twenty seats in parliament, the so called reserved seats, with ten seats for ethnic Serbs. This has been the parliamentary practice since Kosovo’s independence in 2008 but was to be abandoned after the next parliamentary elections. The Serb representatives will only join the vote on the Kosovo army if the system of reserved seats in parliament remains in place.

The ruling Kosovo Democratic Party of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is in favor of prolonging the current practice of reserved seats. The nationalist Self-determination Movement (Vetevendosje), however, blames Serbia for the political deadlock. A spokesman for Vetevendosje, Visar Ymeri, stated: “As you can see, Belgrade is becoming an important decision-making player in Kosovo by becoming an important player in parliament”.
   
Dissolving parliament

By refusing to join the vote on the army, the Serb representatives have halted the legislative process in Kosovo. A meeting was organized between the Prime Minster and the main political parties in parliament to try to overcome the political deadlock, but to no avail. Myzeine Selmani, representative for the Alliance for a New Kosovo, stated: “We can play ping-pong today and tomorrow but there needs to be an agreement between the leaders of the political parties”. But the parties could not come to an understanding.

After President Atifete Jahjaga talked with all parties he stressed the need to organize early elections “to extract the country from a political blockade”. Prime Minister Thaci announced the voting on Kosovo’s army would be “left to the new composition of parliament”, adding that “a parliament that cannot establish an own army has no reason to exist”. The Kosovo constitution demands elections to take place within 45 days. The main parliamentary parties agreed to hold the elections on 8 June.  

Sources: B92, Balkan Insight I, Balkan Insight II, Radio Free Europe, Reuters.

Author: Koen Migchelbrink

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