Kosovo Power Vacuum

After months of negotiations, Kosovo's squabbling politicians have yet to agree a government and president.

Kosovo Power Vacuum

After months of negotiations, Kosovo's squabbling politicians have yet to agree a government and president.

Democracy can be harder than it looks for people who've never tried it before. Two months after the first ever democratic elections in Kosovo, nobody can agree who should run a government and who should be president.

The international community, meanwhile, runs the province as it has done since NATO kicked out the forces of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

The largest number of votes in the election on November 17 went to the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, led by Ibrahim Rugova. But he failed to muster the required parliamentary majority to install himself as head of state.

He was blocked by the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, led by Hashim Thaqi and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, headed by Ramush Haradinaj. Both these groups considered Rugova had played too feeble a role in the battle against Serbian rule.

Of 120 seats in the assembly, LDK has 46, PDK 26, AAK 8 and the Serb coalition Povratak 22. The rest are divided between smaller Albanian and other minority parties.

Rugova offered the PDK and AAK five ministries out of the seven available and two deputy prime minister posts. He wanted to nominate the premier from his own party.

The PDK and AAK demanded "co-governance" - meaning that the posts of president, prime minister and assembly president should be shared between the three main parties.

The LDK turned this down with the approval of the then-UN administrator, Hans Haekkerup, who pushed for a ruling coalition to be formed with the help of minority parties. But the latter refused to enter the contest. Povratak is opposed to anyone becoming president.

Three rounds of assembly voting failed to deliver Rugova a presidential mandate. After that the PDK and AAK claimed he had no right to try again. They cited the Kosovo Constitutional Framework which provides for three rounds of voting but omits to say what should happen next.

Representatives of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom, who make up QUINT, an international conciliation service, organised two meetings between LDK, PDK, AAK and Povratak at the US government office in Pristina last week but failed to break the deadlock.

The lack of progress is leading to growing radicalism within Rugova's party. An LDK forum last week stated, "the talks with other parties have ended". Any concession to grant the PDK the position of prime minister could break up the LDK when its convention meets in April.

At the same time, cooperation between the PDK and AAK is improving all the time. Both have found a common strategy, pushing up the price of their support so as to steer Rugova towards seeking the backing of Povratak, an embrace which could tear the LDK apart.

Povratak has posed virtually unacceptable conditions. These include a renunciation of demands for the independence of Kosovo. No Albanian politician could accept that.

The US office meetings in Pristina demonstrated that all the Kosovo parties are too far apart and their perception of the province's reality too foggy.

In an effort to break the deadlock, the AAK stepped aside from the bargaining and said it would leave matters to the PDK and LDK. But the former then began making demands which were unacceptable to the latter.

The international community feels no obligation to step in. It says its role is to assist the Kosovars, not to deliver a ready-made solution.

Kosovar disappointment over their squabbling leaders is growing. They feel their hopes for the creation of self-government are being betrayed. Many blame the Constitutional Framework which provides for 20 seats to be set aside for minorities. This increases small party representation in the legislation but makes it harder for main parties to secure a majority.

While all this is going on, people worry about daily problems like price increases and the 55 per cent unemployment rate. Recent conversion to the euro has raised the price of bread - the main Kosovar staple - by 40 per cent.

Among other political options being floated at the moment is the idea of a government composed entirely of technical administrative experts. But everyone knows that among the first issues facing a government will be the question of Kosovar independence. No technical experts would be able to tackle that.

Arben Qirezi is a regular IWPR contributor.

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