Kosovo elections : relations with Serbia influence majority formation

Following our previous coverage of June 8th elections in Kosovo, declared as positive and democratic, the country has entered a profound political crisis. The opposition parties’ alliance against the PDK’s election victory have increasingly being challenging the political and institutional organization of Europe’s youngest state. Indeed the Vetevendosje’s demands to end the EU-led talks between Belgrade and Pristina still prevent the opposition from forming a majority.   

An unclear majority in Pristina

As often in ethnically diverse societies, Kosovo has organized its political system around the representation of ethnic minorities within its Assembly. Their presence is guaranteed by the Constitution of Kosovo which states that out of the 120 Assembly seats, 20 are reserved for ethnic minorities (Serbs, Romani, Bosniaks…) while the 100 others result from popular elections.

The direct consequence of such a system is a lack of clear majority resulting from legislative elections and usual resort to post-election coalitions between several parties. June 8th elections were no different : while outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s PDK (Democratic Party of Kosovo) received the greatest share of votes , the customary practice would have been for him to find allies in order to form a coalition within the 15 following days. Nevertheless, three other parties - the Liberal Democratic Party (LDK), Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and the newly formed Initiative for Kosovo (“Nisma”) – organized themselves into a coalition, without the PDK.  Today, a genuine war has begun between the leaders of both PDK and AAK, respectively Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj, both former generals of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). The former denounces the agreement as unconstitutional explaining that the party wining the elections should form the government, the latter emphasizing on the number of seats the coalition has been able to gather.  The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga has submitted the question to the Constitutional Court, who should advise if the electoral results or the parliamentary majority should prevail. Its conclusions are expected within the next weeks.

This unexpected agreement  is today under strain of other political parties’ support, and notably the nationalist Vetevendosje movement. In reality, the minimum necessary number of 61 seats needed to form a government would not be reached without them : after the confirmation of vote results, the PDK got 37 seats, the LDK 30, Vetevendosje 16, AAK 11 and Nisma 6.

A difficult normalization of relations with Serbia

Great disagreements remain between coalition members.  Vetevendosje’s leader, Albin Kurti presented two conditions to back the coalition into the Assembly: the end of EU-led talks with Serbia as well as a halt to privatization. Vetevendosje would support a dialogue with Serbs in Kosovo, but not with Belgrade. The movement was indeed the only political party opposing the 2013 Kosovo-Serbia agreement.  Kosovo being a former part of Serbia, relations between the two countries have been tense since the access to independence in 2008. Last year, the Brussels Agreement had been signed by representatives of both states in order to normalize their relations, but the status of ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo remains a key issue. In Serbia, the Committee on Kosovo interpreted the low level of political participation of Albanian Kosovans as a result of popular discontent with Pristina’s policies. However, the number of ethnic Serbs who went voting increased, reaching an average of 43%. In reality, the number of seats allocated to the Serbian minority in Parliament is guaranteed to 10, whatever the share of votes their representatives get. That’s why this figure can be interpreted as a greater integration of the Serbian minority within Kosovo. The director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, Dusan Janjic explained how "Holding the elections, never mind their results, enables the realization of the constitutional act on representation of Serbs in the institutions, and in parliament and government, as well as in public companies that are connected with the government". Belgrade has pronounced itself in favour of a the participation of Kosovo’s Serbs into the new yet-to-come parliamentary majority, in order to facilitate and accelerate the creation of the Association of Serb Municipalities which should represent more intensively Serbs’ interests in Kosovo.

This issue remains blocked by Vetevendosje, who denounces ever-escalating pressure of Belgrade,  blocking at the same time the formation of a majority in Kosovo. After organizing the most fair and calm elections since Kosovo’s independence and without a boycott by Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo institutions and political parties are facing a major post-election test. The influence and presence of international community in Kosovo is likely to put weight in the process of government formation. The opposition has a majority, but it is unlikely that Vetevendosje will be an official part of this coalition it the party continues to demand for an end of the EU-led talks with Belgrade.   

 

Sources : BalkanInsight I, BalkanInsight II, BalkanInsight III, B92, Setimes, LSE Research on South Eatern Europe

Author : Laura Gounon

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