Kosovo election: Incumbents defeated, dialogue with Belgrade to be resumed?

Flag of Kosovo; Photo: Kosovo MFA

PRISTINA – Ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) lead by Kadri Veseli and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), party of the former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, admitted defeat in the snap election in Kosovo held yesterday. The new coalition government is expected to be formed by Vetëvendosje! (LVV) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), prompting changes in the policy towards negotiations with Belgrade.

According to the preliminary results, LVV is leading the vote share by less than one percent over LDK, with both parties receiving about 25% of the votes. The ranking of the parties in the election is important since, according to the 2014 decision of the Constitutional Court, the first-placed one will be the first to try and form a government, Pristina Insight reports.

This means that LVV’s leader Albin Kurti is set to become the next Prime Minister of Kosovo provided that the votes from the diaspora do not change the current outcome. LDK’s candidate for the Prime Minister Vjosa Osmani stated that all votes should be counted first.

“We saved the Republic from state capture”, declared Kurti last night as the results were coming in.

Previously regarded as too extreme in his political views to be a part of a government, Kurti recently moderated his position on unification with Albania and expressed the willingness to cooperate with Serbia and Serb minority population if he wins the election, as well as the new High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell.

In an interview for Austrian Der Standard, conducted a day before the election, Kurti stated that he would immediately begin the dialogue with Serb population in Kosovo, in order to determine the level of implementation of the agreements reached thus far in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Critically, he stated that he would abolish the 100% tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, implemented by Haradinaj government last November. The tariffs have been the main obstacle for resuming the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which has effectively been suspended since the middle of 2018.

“We would swap the tariffs with the principle of reciprocity”, said Kurti, explaining that Serbia should accept Kosovo’s documents and that the issue of missing persons should be resolved.

In a pre-election analysisEWB’s interlocutrs also emphasised that LDK seems to have the most flexible approach toward the tariffs because many of the key party members have indicated that they are willing to suspend tariffs and constructively deal with the dialogue. The policy towards Serbia is thus likely to experience changes.

Session of the Assembly; Photo: Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo

“100% coalition”: Not a winning formula after all

Leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Kadri Veseli, in a press release on Sunday, admitted that his party has lost the election and said that it will go in opposition. According to preliminary results his party, which was in power since the country declared independence in 2008, is ranked as third with 20% of the vote. “We accept the defeat, the PDK will go in opposition,” said Veseli, Gazeta Express reports.

The “100% coalition” between Ramush Haradinaj’s AAK and Shpend Ahmeti’s PSD look set to finish fourth, with the preliminary results putting them on 11.6% of the vote, Pristina Insigt reports.

In a statement on Facebook, Haradinaj, whose resignation in July triggered the snap election, thanked his voters and hailed the election process, describing a “fair and calm competition that raised Kosovo and its citizens to a new standard of political and democratic maturity, serving as an exemplary model in the region”.

No major irregularities have been reported so far, and the turnout has reported to be several percentage points higher than in previous election cycles, but still lower than 50%.

“Srpska lista” wins all 10 seats for Serbs in the Assembly

Belgrade-backed “Srpska lista” won all 10 seats reserved for Serb population in the Assembly of Kosovo. It also won more than 98% of the total votes in the four Serb-majority municipalities in the North of Kosovo, even though it faced three challenging parties and coalitions.

Throughout the election process in the North, pressures of voters have been reported, as well as inability of opposition parties to campaign freely. The situation in the area remains unstable, and the murder of the politician Oliver Ivanović, whose party now ran on the list of “Srpska lista”, remains unresolved.

Even though “Srpska lista” supported the previous government of Ramush Haradinaj, this time its votes will not be necessary for a majority in the Assembly, KoSSev reports. However, the Constitution of Kosovo still stipulates that at least one government minister must be a member of Serb population, and this person will have to be supported by “Srpska lista”.