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Kosovo - General Elections

General Elections in Kosovo,
12th December 2010

General Elections in Kosovo,
12th December 2010

15/11/2010 - Analysis

On 2nd November last the interim President of the Republic and former President of Parliament Jakup Krasniqi (Democratic Party, PDK) dissolved the Parliament and convened early general elections for 12th December next after the vote of a motion of censure launched by the Alliance for a New Kosovo (AKR) and delivered by 40 MPs thereby causing the collapse of the government led by Hashim Thaci (PDK) (66 votes in favour out of 120).

The President of the Republic Fatmir Sejdiu (Democratic League, LDK) was forced to resign on 27th September after the decision of the Constitutional Court on 24th September which was given following a complaint lodged by 32 MPs. This decision noted that the Head of State had infringed the Constitution by maintaining the position of chair of the LDK whilst he occupied the highest office in State. Fatmir Sejdiu, who was elected for the first time in 2006 after the death of his predecessor (2002-2005) Ibrahim Rugova, was re-elected in 2008 and became the first President of independent Kosovo. "I was convinced that maintaining the function of chair of the Democratic League without actually exercising was not contrary to the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has a different opinion. I respect its decision," declared Fatmir Sejdiu. Even though this has occurred late in the day the Head of State's resignation enhances the rule of law in Kosovo.

After the resignation of the President the two main parties in the country – the Democratic Party (PDK) and the Democratic League (LDK) – did not reach agreement on the means for the re-election of the Head of State who is appointed by the members of Parliament in Kosovo. The PDK was against the fact that Fatmir Sejdiu's successor would be elected for a five year mandate and wanted the latter to finish the present mandate and stay in office until January 2013. On 15th October this disagreement led to the LDK quitting the government coalition that it had formed with the PDK since January 2008.
The Parliament which will emerge from the urn on 12th December will therefore be called on to elect the President of Kosovo.

A crisis that comes at a bad time

The political crisis is damaging Kosovo's image since it is a state that is still growing and is about to start discussions with Serbia. On 9th September last Belgrade accepted before the UN's General Assembly to enter dialogue with Pristina after being warned that its hostility might impede progress in the country's bid to join the EU. This resolution also led the EU to give the green light on 25th October to the examination of Belgrade's membership application. On 22nd July the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague declared the independence of Kosovo legal with regard to international law. The country which has been independent since 17th February 2008 has been acknowledged by 71 States in the world including 22 of the 27 EU Member States. Serbia, like Russia has still not acknowledged it.

Discussions between Belgrade and Pristina are to take place under the guidance of Brussels. They are firstly designed to settle practical issues that the population face (Serbs and Albanians alike) and which involve for example passports, car licence plates (some Serbs have kept the plates from the time when Kosovo was a region of Serbia). Discussions are also due to address economic issues. "Discussions will focus on taking cooperation forward and improving people's lives," declared Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the Security Policy who spoke with the President of Serbia, Boris Tadic (Democratic Party, DS) on 23rd September to set the rules for the upcoming discussions. "We are ready to discuss and will shall do it in good faith," declared the Serb Head of State. "The time has come to put an end to a century of conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo wants to talk with the Serbs over practical issues as two States, as equals," indicated the Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. In October American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton travelled to Belgrade and Pristina where she said she wanted to see the beginning dialogue between the two countries and also the completion of these as quickly as possible.

The political crisis is also delaying the privatisation of national companies launched by the government notably that of the postal services and telecommunications which has already brought the LDK and the PDK into conflict. In April last the PDK approved the privatisation of the sector whilst its coalition partner was against it. On 14th October the interim President Jakup Krasniqi refused to promulgate the law.

The issues at stake in the electoral campaign

Relations between the country's two main parties – the PDK and the LDK – who have been allies since January 2008, are very tense.
The LDK was not very enthusiastic about an early election and did not approve the censure motion against Hashim Thaci on 2nd November last. According to the leader of his parliamentary group, Ismet Beqiri, the electoral campaign has been too short and is not enough for the party to prepare correctly for the election. On 7th November the Mayor of Pristina Isa Mustafa was elected as head of the LDK winning 235 votes out of 359 and won easily over former President Fatmir Sejdiu who was running for office again. The LDK which has been on the decline since the death of Ibrahim Rugova on 21st January 2006 hopes to take advantage of the popularity of its new leader on 12th December.

The PDK should increase its power during the general elections. In spite of the scandals over the last few years the Kosovo citizens are still attached to this party that includes former member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) considered as the heroes of the country's independence.
"These general elections are a new start for Kosovo," declared the outgoing Prime Minister in a somewhat paradoxical manner after the vote on the motion of censure against his government on 2nd November. He repeated that the LDK is the only one responsible for the political crisis. The head of the outgoing government should take advantage of the absence of former Prime Minister (2004-2005) Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo from this election – he is ineligible at present because he is in prison at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague for war crimes. Acquitted for the first time in 2008 the ICTY ordered his re-arrest on 21st July 2010. A new trial will be organised since the Court believes that witnesses were not adequately protected.
If the PDK wins on 12th December it may join forces with the Alliance for a New Kosovo (AKR) led by businessman Behxhet Pacolli as well as with the Serb parties to form the next government coalition.

The Serbs of Kosovo remain divided over their participation in the early election. They turned to Serb President Boris Tadic, the only one in their opinion who has the right to decide over the issue. Randel Nojkic, leader of the Serb Revival Movement supports participation in the election. Tomilsav Nikolic, leader of the Serb Radical Party (SRS), indicated that he would not condemn the Serbs of Kosovo who turned out to ballot. Milan Ivanovic chair of the Serb National Council for North Kosovo called for a boycott of the election. It is unthinkable for Serbs to take part in elections which in his opinion "would legitimise an almost independent State," adding, "the Serbs have to vote for Serb institutions."

The Kosovo Political System

The unicameral Parliament has 120 MPs elected for four years by proportional representation. 20 seats are reserved for the minorities: 10 for the Serbs, 4 for the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (so called because they are supposed to have come from Egypt – the latter are Muslims of Albanian mother tongue like the Ashkali), 3 for the Bosniaks, 2 for the Turks and 1 for the Gorani (members of the Slav speaking Muslim community livening in Kosovo).
The first general elections in independent Kosovo took place on 17th November 2007.

5 political parties are represented in Parliament:
- the Democratic Party (PDK), holds the majority with 37 seats and is led by outgoing Prime Minister Hashim Thaci;
- the Democratic League (LDK), the party of former President Fatmir Sejdiu, led by Isa Mustafa with 25 MPs;
- the Alliance for a New Kosovo (AKR) has 13 seats;
- the Democratic League Alliance of Dardania-Christian Democratic Party (LDD-PSDK) has 11 MPs;
- the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) led by Ramush Haradinaj imprisoned at present by the ICTY has 10 seats;
10 parties represent the minorities: the Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo, the Ashkali Democratic Party, the Vaka Coalition, the Serb Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija (name given by the Serbs to the south west part of Kosovo), the Democratic Action Party, the Serb People's Party, New Democracy, Gora Civic Initiative, the Serb Party of Kosovo-Metohija and the New Initiative of Kosovo.

Interim President Jakup Krasniqi has called on international observers to come and monitor the election. "Their presence would have an enormous effect on the credibility and reliability of the election," he wrote in a letter to Catherine Ashton. Pieter Feith, the EU's special representative in Kosovo has called on all political representatives to "show responsibility in the national interest and to guarantee flexible transition."

Source : Parliament of Kosovo
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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