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

Local Kosovo Issues

Podujeve residents are not impressed with the performance of their local politicians.
By Refiqe Hamiti

Kosovo Albanians claim politicians campaigning for municipal elections later this month are failing to properly address local issues.


In Podujeve, a town close to the border with Serbia proper, voters say politicians are not saying exactly how they plan to improve local education and health and tackle unemployment.


Education has long been of great importance for all Albanians. A generation has grown up under an apartheid schooling system, where Serbian refusal to allow teaching in Albanian forced Kosovars to set up their own institutions.


Local teachers say they lack the necessary buildings to accommodate their pupils. They're forced to hold classes in morning and afternoon shifts. There are only two elementary and four high schools in the town. The children lack textbooks - their parents can't afford them.


"We are expecting improvement in conditions and hope local people who know these problems and are really interested in them will be elected," said Miradie Beqiri, a teacher in Podujeve.


Maliq Shaqiri, another teacher, complains that teachers are underpaid and sometimes not paid at all. He said this has a terrible effect on their performance and morale, "How can they live like this? How can we support our families? How can I support my five children?"


Others speak of the high unemployment in Podujeve, and complain that this is another problem that is not being addressed.


Podujeve citizens say politicians should not waste time trying to convince voters of the importance of the elections. They say they understand their significance and predict a very high turnout. Some 56, 780 voters are registered. They will vote in more than 60 polling stations in Podujeve.


Voters face a wide choice. Many of the parties were established before the war. Others are more recent arrivals on the political scene. All, including the biggest, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and the Kosovo's Future Alliance, AAK, pledge a lot. But will they deliver?


The LDK promises changes in security, reconstruction, social and shelter policies. It stands for improvements in the infrastructure, economic development, further reform of education and healthcare as well as programs and facilities for the families of war dead and invalids.


The AAK - motto: "With us all win" - promises changes in the economy, education, tourism and agriculture. Its leadership says it has the best technocrats to put new projects into effect. "Professionally we are the best," said Isak Zhitia.


The PDK has a program for the development not only of Podujeve's urban centre but of the surrounding rural areas as well. It says it will take responsibility for management of the water supply for some 80 per cent of the Llapi area.


"We should use every means to win the local election so that we can put into action programmes which will resolve the town's problems," said the local PDK leader Hamit Hamiti. "Vote for your future."


The parties pledge to do a lot but their plans appear rather sketchy. Citizens ask how the parties can make changes in Podujeve's infrastructure when money is either in the hands of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo or non-government organisations.


They want to know how the parties will convince the international administration and the NGOs to finish half-completed projects and to channel money into vital areas.


Voters want their candidates to speak to them in clear and simple terms so that they can be understood. Only then can voters decide whom to support.


Refiqe Hamiti is a freelance journalist in Podujeve.