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Kosovars Lament Political Loss

Without Haradinaj, Albanians fear Kosovo will not make enough progress towards fulfilling the standards required for final status talks.
By Jeta Xharra

After only a hundred days in office as Kosovo's prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj has resigned and departed for The Hague to answer charges brought against him by the international war crimes tribunal.


Haradinaj’s departure from politics could be damaging for Kosovo’s political prospects, local analysts warn.


Principally, they say, it will weaken the government and slow down the process of fulfilling the requirements that the international community has set out as the prerequisite for talks on the final status of Kosovo.


Kosovo has been given a deadline of mid-2005 to meet eight benchmarks before a review by the international community that will decide whether it merits a green light to proceed towards these crucial talks.


The standards relate to institution-building, rule of law, freedom of movement, refugee returns, economic growth, property rights, dialogue with Belgrade and greater professionalism in the Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC, the civil defence force.


Though Haradinaj has had the prospect of a war crimes indictment hanging over him ever since Hague officials first interviewed him on November 10 – he was appointed prime minister only in December - the international community praised his administration for its energy and dynamism.


"This government was doing very well," said Mark Dickinson, head of the British office in Kosovo, "firstly by pushing through the decentralisation project and secondly by taking specific actions to deliver on standards."


The decentralisation referred to by Dickinson is a pilot plan to devolve powers to local authorities, including several new, mainly Serb, municipal bodies.


He added, "Standards working groups were meeting on a much more regular basis than before… and mechanisms were put in place to ensure people delivered on standards".


Many fear these initiatives will falter as a consequence of Haradinaj's departure and that it will become more difficult to meet the deadlines set for improvement in these key areas.


Milazim Krasniqi, a political analyst, said he feared "complete stagnation under some new prime minister, as it will take time before a new government can start its reforms.


The current governing coalition could simply collapse, warned Krasniqi, "It will be hard for the coalition between Haradinaj's party [Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK] and the LDK [Democratic League of Kosovo] to survive without him. In the worst-case scenario, there might even be new elections."


Leon Malazogu, research director at the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development, thinks the outlook for dynamic government is bleak.


"Whoever comes in his place will not have Haradinaj's authority, energy and the ability to tell the ministers to get the job done as he did," he told IWPR.


Ramush Tahiri, an advisor to Nexhat Daci, speaker of the Kosovo assembly and a member of the LDK presidency, said Haradinaj had pushed ahead with plans to hold talks with Serbia, "He was very brave when it came to saying publicly that he would talk to Belgrade without any pre-conditions.


"This is not usual for Kosovar leaders because the stigma of talking to Belgrade is so high. Most other leaders say they need to consult with their parties or set conditions whenever the question of dialogue with Belgrade comes up."


Before he left for The Hague, Haradinaj had said he wanted the AAK coalition with the LDK, formed after the October 2004 elections, to stay together.


With that in mind, he nominated environment minister Bajram Kosumi, who is number two in his party, to succeed him as prime minister.


However, many believe that it will be difficult for the ruling coalition to survive without Haradinaj's personal presence.


With the AAK enjoying the support of only seven or eight per cent of the electorate, many of its members are known to harbour fears that their party is becoming overshadowed by the much larger LDK.


“With Haradinaj gone, more AAK members might not have the stomach to continue this coalition for fear of beginning to resemble an LDK satellite party,” said Alex Anderson, head of the conflict-prevention think tank Crisis Group in Kosovo.


Malazogu predicts that the AAK may fall apart entirely, "In the long-term the AAK will find it difficult to survive and stop disintegrating."


He believes the international authorities in Kosovo may insist on the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, joining a new and bigger coalition.


Whether even a broader-based government will be able to steer Kosovo towards the goal of final status talks remains very much open to question.


Jeta Xharra is IWPR’s Kosovo Country Director. Muhamet Hajrullahu, an IWPR contributor, contributed to this article.


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