General elections to be held in Kosovo

On Sunday 8 June general elections will be held in Kosovo, following an early dissolution of parliament on 7 May. Parliament fell after interethnic bickering let to a legislative stalemate. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of ruling Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is expected to win. The new government faces many challenges; foremost are a haltering economy, the strengthening of the fledgling government and judiciary and the integration of the ethnic Serbs. 

A total of 30 political parties participate in the June 8 general election but few are expected to pass the electoral threshold of 5 percent. The Albanese parties dominate Kosovo’s political landscape. According to an election survey from the end of May, the PDK leads the poll with 31.2 percent of the votes. The centre-right Democratic league of Kosovo (LDK) of Isa Mustafa comes in second with 25.5 percent. According to the survey, the radical nationalistic Vetevendosje party will become third with 14.3 percent. Ethnic-Serb representatives threatened to boycott the vote, saying participating meant recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Most ethnic Serbian want to rejoin the neighbouring Republic of Serbia.

Elections in Kosovo have a bad track record. In the 2010 general elections over 45 percent of the ballot boxes had been tampered with. The resulting parliament was unable to pass important laws and much-needed reforms. The November 2013 municipal elections represented a significant democratic improvement and stemmed for optimism for the coming elections. But critics fear another fraudulent election. A member of the Central Election Commission stated that “the oligarchs that control the local branches will again determine who wins in their territories”. He added “the stakes are higher in national elections, so the motive for fraud is stronger.”

The leading parties

Ideologically, Kosovo’s largest parties are allot alike, they are principally associated with their leaders and their history. The traditional ideological divide does not apply. The centre-right  PDK and LDK both resisted Serbian rule. The main difference is that the PDK is rooted in the armed struggle against Serbian rule, whereas the LDK arose from the peaceful protest movement. The PDK is headed by former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci. The party has adopted the slogan ‘New Mission’ and is credited for normalizing relations with neighbouring Serbia, the international recognition of Kosovo, the strengthening of relations with the EU and the furthering integrating ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. However, Thaci has not been able to tackle the widespread corruption and the dwindling economy.

The LDK party leader, Isa Mustafa, campaigns with the slogan “The Turn” and is Thaci’s main rival. But charges of corruption also plague the LDK, just recently ten LDK member working in the Pristina city administration were arrested. Among the major Kosovo parties, only the nationalist Vetevendosje can be considered left wing. The populist agenda of the party appeals to the country’s lower and middle classes.

For the first time since the 2001 Serbs in Kosovo will participate in the elections. De Belgrade-backed Srpska Citizens Initiative won nine out of ten Serb-majority municipalities last November and is expected to win a majority of the ten parliamentary-seats guaranteed to the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Most parties do not want to govern with the Serbs. The outgoing coalition fell because Serbs retracted their support. However, Kosovo’s Serb minority is rather sizable and ignoring a Serbian supported bloc will be difficult.

Election difficulties

For the first time since 2001 Serbs in Kosovo will participate in the general elections, ending a years-long election boycott following the Belgrade-Pristina agreement in 2013. The Serb mayor of northern town of Leposavic, Dragan Jablanovic, announced that Serbs from northern Kosovo will partake in the general elections. Earlier on Wednesday 4 June, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic stated that his government recommends all the Kosovo Serbs to vote in the 8 June general election.
Concerns about fraudulent elections in Kosovo are high. The European Union will deploy over 60 observers to monitor the general elections. The Deputy Chief Observer, Marian Gebriel, said there is still a need for observers in Kosovo. He stated “Election observation not only deters electoral malpractice but can also improve public confidence in the electoral process.”

Sources: B92, Balkan Insight I, Balkan Insight II, Balkan Insight III, Independent Balkan News Agency, Reuters, Telegrafi


Author: Koen Migchelbrink

Picture: NRC

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