Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kosovo: Rugova Leadership Bid Blocked

Albanian parliamentarians are refusing to back Ibranhim Rugova's presidential bid.
By Nehat Islami

A month after Kosovo's general election, the country still lacks a president, a prime minister and a cabinet, while Albanian political parties wrangle over old grudges and barter for a bigger share in government.


International representatives look on impatiently while the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, remains saddled with the task of day-to-day government.


Albanian politicians blocked the man who came top in the election, Ibrahim Rugova, from becoming president during a December 13 parliamentary session. He was unable to muster the two-thirds majority in the 120-seat parliament he required to assume office.


His party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Hashim Thaqi's Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for Kosovo's Future, AAK, won 47, 26 and eight seats respectively in the recent elections. In the assembly vote, the latter two parties failed to back Rugova which left him well short of the 81 ballots he needed.


Albanian politicians' refusal to support Rugova came despite international efforts to pressure them into doing so at a closed-door meeting on the eve of the parliamentary session.


Thaqi and Haradinaj turned their backs on the LDK leader because he had not agreed to their respect demands for the posts of premier and parliamentary speaker nor offered their parties sufficient ministerial positions.


In addition, Haradinaj said he was not prepared to enter a coalition government unless all three Albanian parties were represented.


At the start of the parliamentary session, Mahmut Bakali, from Haradinaj's party, suggested postponing the presidential vote in order to give the three main parties more time to strike a deal over Rugova's presidency bid. But the LDK, misjudging the parliamentary mood, insisted on pushing ahead.


The party had mistakenly counted on the 22 deputies from the Serb coalition, Povratak (Return), and 11 deputies from other minority parties backing Rugova.


Negotiations are now stalled. There are no plans for new inter-party meetings. And the international community has sent a clear signal it is unwilling to pay for new general elections.


Michael Schmunk, chief of German mission in Kosovo, said on December 14, "You Kosovars cannot expect us to organise and monitor new elections. For the whole process to be repeated it would require 17 million German marks and lots of patience. This is financially and politically impossible."


The mutual animosity between Thaqi, Haradinaj and Rugova dates from the beginning of the Albanian revolt against Serbian forces. The conflict ended with the withdrawal of the latter from Kosovo and the arrival of an international peacekeeping force in the summer of 1999.


Thaqi and Haradinaj were formerly commanders of Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA. They cannot forgive Rugova, who was a leading political authority in Kosovo over the past ten years, for condemning their armed struggle.


The ex KLA leaders also resented the meeting Rugova had with the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic during NATO bombing campaign when Serb forces had embarked upon the ethnic cleansing of Albanians from Kosovo.


For his part, Rugova always proposed that independence could be reached by peaceful means. He accused Thaqi and Haradinaj of leading undisciplined parties responsible for much of the smuggling and corruption in Kosovo.


The stalemate is not likely to be resolved soon. Rugova is facing a second round of voting on January 10, and will still require 81 votes. If that fails, he would only need the backing of 61 deputies in a final ballot.


Should he fall short again, Rugova might be driven to seeking a deal with Povratak. However, this would be highly difficult to achieve. The Serbs would insist on him dropping the Albanian demand for independence. Rugova would find this unacceptable.


Indeed, Rugova told Deutsche Welle on December 17 that the time was not ripe for his party to enter coalition with the Serbs. "The situation is still very tense and there are many frustrations from the recent conflict," he said.


However difficult it might be, Rugova seems to have little choice but to give Thaqi and Haradinaj what they want.


Nehat Islami is IWPR project manager in Pristina


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