For Kosovo, 2021 is a year of elections. The fifth parliamentary (early) elections will be held on 14 February 2021. After establishment of the parliamentary majority the next President of Kosovo will be elected, after what regular local elections will follow.
In such a situation there is no ambiance for serious work, particularly with respect to combating the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as strengthening civic and other freedoms. The entire social-political life revolves around the elections and election campaigns.
In January 20211, the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) publicized an analysis titled “2021 Early Elections in Kosovo: End of an Era”, link: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9964 (17-01-2021).
The Kosovo Assembly has 120 representatives, with 20 mandates reserved for members of minority communities. Specifically, the Serb community gets 10 mandates, while the Bosniak community gets three, Turkish two, RAE (Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian) four and Goran community one mandate.
According to the records of the Kosovo Central Election Commission, 1.9 million voters have been registered for the upcoming early elections. They are administratively divided into 38 municipalities with 1.8 million citizens. Citizens from the diaspora are due to vote by 13 February 2021. The Central Election Commission has accepted 175,273 voters who will vote by mail. At the previous elections, 35,087 voters were allowed to vote by mail from outside of Kosovo. A total of 28 political subjects will participate in the elections. Specifically, 21 political parties, two coalitions and five civic initiatives. The election campaign commenced on 2 February and will last only 10 days. However, the informal campaign has been going on for several months already.
Kosovo is one of the countries in the region that still has problems with the final electoral register, which is unprocessed and untrustworthy, because it is illogical that there are more voters than citizens in Kosovo. A special point of concern is the fact that an extremely high number of 175,273 voters has applied to vote by mail, which understandably creates suspicions about possible manipulations. After the evaluation of applications, 101,839 applications for registration were approved, while 29,633 were denied.
Devastating indicators of the situation on Kosovo
Each year the World Justice Project (WJP) publishes the Rule of Law Index list, which is considered a leading global source for reliable and independent data on the rule of law and ranks the countries with respect to their rule of law performance.
While countries with strong and independent judiciary rank high, countries with corrupted judges are ranked at the bottom of the list. The ranking of Kosovo on the recently published Rule of Law Index for 2020 is devastating. Specifically, out of 128 countries Kosovo is ranked 54th with respect to the rule of law, 97th with respect to regulatory enforcement, 62nd with respect to absence of corruption, 93rd with respect to civil justice and 56th with respect to criminal justice.
On the Corruption Perceptions Index list compiled by Transparency International for 2020, Kosovo ranked 104th on the list of 179 countries. Specifically, it was in the same group as Vietnam, Albania, Cote d’Ivoire, Thailand, Algeria and El Salvador. (Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2020).
In the report by the Reporters Without Borders, Kosovo is ranked 70th on the list of 180 countries, which indicates that it is in the group of “partly free” countries with respect to media freedom. (Source: Reporters Without Borders 2020).
Political-criminal structures do not build a country and institutions
So far, after coming to power, all Kosovo governments announced rapid development and promised to build strong institutions that will be a factor of internal stability and peace, and in such a way contribute to stability and peace in the region. However, the promises were not fulfilled and Kosovo citizens are deeply disappointed with the ruling political structures, because in the entire region only Kosovo has not granted a visa-free regime. The practice shows that nowhere in the world have political-criminal structures developed strong state institutions. In fact, they did just the opposite. The permanent political crisis in Kosovo is a political concept and the method of survival in power for the current political structures.
The roots of crimes in Kosovo go back to the period of the government in exile. The nucleus of the crimes includes commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK-OVK) and (para)intelligence service (ShIK), who operate in cooperation with political structures. ShIK was to be dissolved in 2008, because in 2009 the official Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI-KIA) was established.
A perusal of the recent history reveals strong connections between current political leaders and enormous amounts of money collected through various funds. Specifically, “Vendlindja thrret” (Homeland is Calling) Fund, “Levizja Popullore e Kosoves” (People’s Movement of Kosovo), which was initially established in 1997-98 and tasked to collect money in the diaspora (in 1999 the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) was created from it), and the “3% Fund” established in 1991 under the control of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Their activities lacked transparency and were connected with enormous enrichment of specific current and former political leaders and members of their immediate families.
Crime and corruption continued also after the international intervention and the war on Kosovo in 1999. Nepotism is omnipresent is all segments of the society. In fact it is directly controlled and directed by the leaderships of the political parties.
Specialist Chambers and Prosecutor’s Office key for the future of Kosovo
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (KSC-SPO) were established in 2015. They became operational in July 2017, and started functioning at full capacity in the second half of 2020.
In Kosovo there is the national judiciary, as well as the international mission of the European Union named Eulex, which was mandated to establish the rule of law in Kosovo. This is also the biggest EU mission that has turned out to be a complete fiasco.
The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (KSC-SPO), were envisaged as the response of Kosovo to the allegations from the Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe (CoE) Dicky Marty about illicit trafficking of human organs and an additional impetus to Kosovo to embark on the process of de-Thaçization of Kosovo. Specifically the process of dismantling of the Thaçi’s regime, which was to lead to internal consolidation of the country. That is why it is important that the KSC-SPO has become fully operational, as it will contribute to achievement of justice, which will be a satisfaction to the victims and their loved ones, as well as relax the relations in Kosovo and ensure a better and more certain future.
The report stipulates that the crimes had been committed by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the period from 1998 to 2000. The court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in Kosovo from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 2000. Although it is a Kosovo court, it is funded by the EU and has international staff. Indictments against four leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (OVK/UCK), Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli, Jakup Krasniqi and Rexhep Selimi, for a number of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including assassinations, forced disappearance of people, persecution and torture, have been confirmed.
The indictees were not granted provisional release, because Thaçi and Veseli had participated in the obstruction of justice, and because some witnesses in their case, as well as in the Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, had been assassinated.
Strong trend of growth of popularity of Albin Kurti and LVV
The conducted public opinion polls in Kosovo show a strong trend of growth of popularity of the Self-Determination Movement (LVV). Analysts believe that so far these are the only elections that will have a convincing winner. Specifically, the Self- Determination Movement, which is why this is a chance for a new beginning for Kosovo and its citizens. A convincing victory by the LVV at the recent local elections in Podujevo, the bastion of the LDK, gave a strong impetus to the election campaign of the LVV.
The situation on the political scene in Kosovo will be informed by the level of public support directed to the Self-Determination Movement (LVV). Namely, the LVV has a significant lead ahead of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Kosovo Democratic Party (PDK), which are competing for the second position. The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and its leader Ramush Haradinaj are trying to draw attention to themselves by only nominating Ramush Haradinaj for the position of the Kosovo President and offering themselves as coalition partners to the LVV for the purposes of establishment of the government.
However, as Ramush Haradinaj is the symbol of the dark past, any public engagement of his would be to the detriment of Kosovo and its future.
The voters are not supportive of a coalition between the LVV and other parties, because the prevailing opinion among the public is that the political-mafia structures had unconstitutionally and illegally removed the government headed by Prime Minister Albin Kurti. The youth is particularly not supportive of such a coalition because they have recognized the LVV and its leader Kurti as “fresh air” on the political scene. The disputed decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court to ban Albin Kurti from running at the parliamentary elections because of a suspended sentence, additionally contributed to Kurti’s popularity.
Voters believe that the current coalition government (LDK – AAK – Nisma – SL) should be sanctioned, and it is expected that the voters will punish the unprincipled coalition and its policies, which are burdened with crimes, corruption, nepotism, intimidation, threats, war crimes, assassinations and blackmails. The legacy of the previous Kosovo governments include only empty premises and damages, which the next generations of Kosovars will have to pay for. The political-criminal and mafia structures will not be able to prevent Kurti from becoming the new President of the government after the victory of the LVV, as what is required for his appointment as the president of the government is the victory of his movement at the elections, not his candidacy or election as a representative.
Analysts warn of the synchronized campaign and intensified attacks by political-criminal structures in Kosovo, as well as the attempts of discrimination aimed against the left-wing Self-Determination Movement and its President Albin Kurti, because after these elections a successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic, recovery from floods, decriminalization of Kosovo and its political scene, dismantling of Hashim Thaçi’s regime, stopping of the trend of emigration of population, securing better living conditions for citizens through economic development and recovery, establishment of the rule of law and affirmation of Kosovo through regional and international cooperation will follow. The victory of the LVV will stabilize the political situation, if the LVV manages to establish on its own the new government of Kosovo. The LVV needs to demonstrate political sensibility towards minorities, particularly the Serb community.
Serbia became epicenter of developments in the region
Thanks to President Aleksandar Vučić, Serbia became the epicenter of developments in the region and key to peace and stability in the region. Joint economic development and establishment of “Mini Schengen” are the priorities in regional cooperation. Individual small countries cannot attract global investors and will have more difficulties ensuring sustainable economic growth and development. That is why in the context of elimination of internal borders and administrative barriers, customs, etc., it would be more efficient for Western Balkans countries to have an agreed infrastructure policy and work together on economic recovery of the region. Opening of the integrated border crossing “Preševo/Tabanovce” between Serbia and North Macedonia is a step in that direction.
The announced opening of an integrated border crossing “Kafasan/Qafë Thanë” between North Macedonia and Albania is a continuation of the initiated activities. This will lead towards establishment of a customs union, which is one of the intents of the Berlin Process. So far, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has met with the French President Emmanuel Macron 11 times, which is an illustration of affirmation of the position of Serbia in international relations. Vučić insists on a compromise, that is a “win – win” solution, between the official Belgrade and Pristina, for what he has received the support of the French President.
“The only solutions that can pave the way to a breakthrough in the matter, which is essential for your state and your people, are those that are accepted by both sides and recognized, allowing us to resolve the important concern at the heart of our Europe”, President Macron underscored. He supported the readiness of the Serbian President and “the risk he took” by proposing, as he said, innovative solutions.
While Vučić is successfully rebranding Serbia, Kosovo is continuously regressing because of its irresponsible political elites, which hold public and responsible offices but primarily focus on their parochial interests and increasing their wealth- not the interests of Kosovo.
Serbia tops global lists, Kosovo did not even begin the vaccination process
According to analysists, Serbia has further strengthened its position during the Covid-19 pandemic because of its successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, and an even more successful vaccination of its population. According to official indicators, specifically the average data for the last seven days published on the website of the Our World in Data, which is associated with the University of Oxford, Serbia is ranked first in Europe and third in the world with respect to the total number of vaccination doses administered per 100 people in the total population. At the same time, in Kosovo the vaccination process has not even started. Vaccination is a complete fiasco of the government headed by Avdullah Hoti (LDK), who will probably be recorded as the most incapable prime minister of Kosovo. The number of victims of the Covid-19 pandemic will exceed all the expectations.
At the time when Kosovo run out of PCR tests, it was Belgrade that sent 1,000 tests as assistance. “We are willing to assist, just as we would be willing to assist Albanians with vaccines,” Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić emphasized.
The upcoming early parliamentary elections in Kosovo will be marked by a new showdown between a part of the Serb opposition and the Albanian political parties, including the Serb List (SL-Srpska lista) headed by Igor Simić, which is supported by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. In fact, through the Serb List (SL), which is the favorite of the Kosovo Serb community in the elections, they will try to “settle the accounts” with the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
As a result, in Kosovo, in the final phase of the election campaign the tensions against the Serb List will significantly increase- and could even include use of violence. Therefore, it is of exceptional importance to finalize the Brussels dialogue between the official Belgrade and Pristina with the signing of a legally binding agreement, to abolish borders in the region and remove the barriers, and in such a way commence intensive mutual cooperation, which would constitute true European behavior.
Ljubljana/Washington/Brussels/Pristina, 6 February 2021
Published by IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. IFIMES has analyzed the current political situation in Kosovo in the context of the early parliamentary elections, which are to take place on 14 February 2021.