On 8 June general elections took place in Kosovo, due to an early dissolution of parliament on 7 May. Normally, elections would take place half a year later. Ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (DPK) got the most votes: 30;72%. Despite this fact, three opposition parties announced an plan to topple a DPK government, which could succeed.
Dissolution of parliament
In the first week of May ethnic Serb lawmakers, who are in a minority, refused to vote on a new national army. Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008 and reached a deal with Serbia in 2013 to normalize ties between the two countries. Critics of creating a new national army argue that it will strain relations with Serbia and with the more than 100.000 ethnic Serbs who live in Kosovo. Because of this the Serb deputies did not wanted to vote.
Kosovo’s constitution states that two thirds of lawmakers have to attend the voting, as well as two third of the deputies representing Kosovo’s ethnic minorities. After the Serb deputies refused to show up and by this retracted their support, outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (DPK) argued “it is the right moment to have free elections... with the aim of having credible and functional institutions.”
After the polls closed outgoing Prime Minister Thaci said his PDK has won the elections. After more than 99% of the votes were counted, the PDK led with 30,72% of the votes (down from 32%). It was uncertain if Thaci, who is in power for more than six years, would win the election because his government has been blamed for problems as corruption, poverty and unemployment.
The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by former mayor of Pristina Isa Mustafa, got 25,72 (24,69 in 2010)% and came in second. The Vetevendosje (Self Determination) movement got 13,51 (from 12,69 in 2010)% and the Alliance for Future of Kosovo 9,58 (11,04 in 2010)%, the Central Election Commission (CEC) stated. The ‘Srpska Lista’ party obtained 4,18% of the votes, according to preliminary results. Limaj and Krasniqi’s (former PDK) Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma per Kosoven) party will be the newest party in parliament. In the election it just managed to pass the threshold by winning 5.24 per cent of the votes. It is expected to have six or seven seats. There are no date yet on the expectedly low turnout in Serbian dominated northern part of Kosovo. It was the first time that people in this region were allowed to vote. Next to this, a difference with the 2010 election is the turnout, which was 4% lower in 2014. Besides these two remarks the results are almost similar with those of four years ago.
The turnout was 43.2%. The CEC argued they had little time to prepare for the elections. During the day, 27.733 election observers were present, as well as 100 prosecutors, to “prevent a repeat of the fraud which also marred the last elections, BBC reporter Guy de Launey noted.
Serb leaders threaten to participate
In the week before the elections, Serb leaders in northern Kosovo argued they were quitting election related activities due to a dispute “over the composition of election committees and the presence of Kosovo state insignia on ballot papers”. They further claimed that Kosovo authorities have changed the rules, which would make it more difficult for a minority party to enter parliament.
The Prime Minister of Serbia, Alexsandar Vucic, urged Kosovo Serbs not to boycott the elections, because “it is not smart”. Although Vucic made a statement, it will not change the minds of all Serb parties. The nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) for instance said that Vucic message is not surprising because “this regime signed the Brussels Agreement in order to come into power.”
The elections were considered to be “crucial for the future integration of the Serb north”. This will have an impact on Serbia’s EU ambitions, while the outcome will also be important for Kosovo’s EU aspirations. The EU said it is looking forward to continuing its close “engagement and commitment to Kosovo with the new government after the elections.” In the end Serb parties did participate in the elections.
Of the 120 seats in parliament, 10 are automatically reserved for Serbs.
After the elections
Thaci and his PDK claimed victory and are currently looking for coalition partners because they will not have enough deputies in parliament to rule alone. Thaci hopes for a third term as Prime Minister. In order to realise this wish, analysts argue that the PDK needs to form a coalition with smaller parties and ethnic Serbs. Currently Thaci’s options are on the one hand to make a grand coalition with the biggest opposition party LDK or on the other to turn to the smaller Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the ethnic Serb minority.
However, three opposition parties reached an agreement in which they do not need PDK to govern: The DLK, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the newly formed Initiative for Kosovo (“Nisma”). Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, will be the new Prime Minister. Although plans have been made, this coalition depends on support of other opposition parties. The agreement of the opposition parties came as a shock, because all eyes were on Thaci’s search for coalition partners to form a government.
According to Agron Bajrami, editor in chief of the biggest newspaper Koha Ditore, the elections were “all about the economy”. About two out of three under the age of 25 are jobless and nearly 50% of the population is considered to be poor. This will be a challenge, Bajrami argues. Especially because the PDK “have raised the stakes too high this time”, because they talked about “millions, billions of Euros and hundreds of thousands of jobs”. However, most of this money is not there. A second challenge could be pressure from the West to respect findings of war crimes investigations “that threatens to ensnare Thaci’s former comrades-in-arms.”
By Laura Ritter
Sources: Reuters I, Balkan Insight I, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, Balkan Insight II, BBC, Balkan Insight III, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberity, Balkan Insight IV, B92, Reuters II