Kosovo: Election Thoughts

What matters most about the elections is that for the first time in Kosovar history, the arena for solving their problems will be a parliament that they elected themselves.

Kosovo: Election Thoughts

What matters most about the elections is that for the first time in Kosovar history, the arena for solving their problems will be a parliament that they elected themselves.

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

It is election day in Kosovo and I am walking the streets with a German - a connoisseur of voting from Colombia to Bulgaria. I feel imbued with a sort of pride that is so rare in Kosovo. It is just like an election day in a German Lutheran Land, where people combine three activities on Sunday election days: going to church, casting their ballots and family get-togethers.

Kosovo's free, democratic elections, the second since the 1999 conflict ended, show just how capable the people and their parties are of developing democracy.

They set an example not only for Albanians, bearing in mind the defects in the elections in Albania and Macedonia, but the region as a whole. None of its neighbours managed to organise better elections.

The voting is over and all eyes are on the figures. The turnout was lower than last year's local elections. The drop of 10 per cent draws attention to two contradictory trends among the electorate. First, we have more voters (a figure likely to increase with every election due to the growing number of children reaching the age of 18). On the other hand, fewer people in every poll feel it is worth going to the polls.

Still, with its 63 per cent turnout, Kosovo still beats many Western democracies with far more experience of free polls. And the figures also show Kosovo is starting to see a process of consolidation among the parties.

The biggest block comprises the main Albanian parties, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, the Democratic Party, PDK, and the Alliance for the Kosovo's Future, AAK.

Then there's the powerful Serbian block, followed by one which includes the minority groups of Bosnians, Roma, Hashkali and Turks. And finally, there is the block of tiny Albanian parties.

The voters have clearly decided to make some checks and balances in Kosovo's political life. The LDK, which won by a big margin in the previous elections, appears to have lost 10 per cent of its supporters. If many votes in previous elections supposedly went to the LDK due to the inactivity of other parties and the arrogance of their leaders, the LDK seems likely to have forfeited some of that support due to its own inactivity and arrogance.

The PDK vote remained static, defying hopes for an increase in support owing to the high profile of their presidential candidate, Flora Brovina. It all suggests PDK backing peaked in the local elections. The AAK enjoyed a growth in support thanks to its hard work. But it needs a two-fold increase to overtake the PDK.

The votes that went to the block of big parties won a total of 79 per cent of the seats in the parliament. This is no surprise, as most people voted for those leaders whose posters were on display in every street. On the other hand, the relatively high number of votes going to the block of little parties shows many electors do not trust the big party leaders.

One novelty in these elections is Serb participation. The Povratak coalition will be the third political force in parliament with 21 seats. This fundamentally alters Kosovo's political life. The Serbs will have a ministerial post as will other minority representatives.

Like it or not, the big Albanian parties will have to form a coalition with the Serbs. If not, the LDK will have to negotiate with other parties to form a coalition and elect Ibrahim Rugova as president.

So much of Kosovo's future politics will depend on the election of the president whose duties under the constitutional framework will include presenting awards and delivering an annual report.

Based on Kosovo's decade-long experience of Rugova, he is certainly skilled in delivering awards. Whether he can fulfil the other conditions for presidency is less clear. The second question is whether he can get votes for the post from a range of parties. This would be the first step towards consensus politics in Kosovo.

The LDK should only gain support for the election of its

candidate as president if it agrees to form a government of experts. The second stage of this consensus should be agreement on the new administration's priorities.

If Rugova wins the post of president, he will have to resign from LDK, opening the way for the creation of a genuinely multi-party democracy. It will help redefine the LDK as a party rather than a movement. This would have an impact of the other parties, too, which tend to lack a clear political profile.

Other points also need to be considered. Will the Albanians want an efficient government and what will they want it for. An administration that merely repeats slogans about independence will achieve little. It won't do much to solve problems over pensions, the electric corporation, conditions for investment, the economy and agriculture; and will be locked in permanent conflict with the international community.

The second point involves the Serbs. Their participation in the parliament means they will have a new opportunity to resolve their problems - but this means recognising Kosovo's territorial integrity and its institutions. If the Serbs try to block the work of parliament, the assembly and government will not help them either.

The third point concerns relations between the Albanians and UNMIK. The constitutional framework has created an extraordinary situation in which the latter has the power to annul any Kosovo government initiative. The new government will need to agree with UNMIK on the country's basic priorities over the next three years.

Kosovo's new parliament faces innumerable troublesome issues. What matters most is the fact that for the first time in our history the arena for solving these issues will be a parliament that we elected ourselves.

The fact that this assembly will not have the authority to take many decisions is a consequence of the stage of history we are in. We are at the ABC stage of democracy. Like all pupils who need to learn more, our parliament and the institutions springing from it will be our special schools.

Veton Surroi is publisher of Koha Ditore.

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