Holding extraordinary elections has become a commonplace in Kosovo. Since the declaration of independence in 2008, no government managed to finish a four-year term, with elections being held on average every two and a half years. Last year only, the country was governed by three different prime ministers, Ramush Haradinaj of AAK, Albin Kurti of VV and Avdullah Hoti of LDK. Caretaker governments took up a significant portion of the executive’s mandate, falling short of any proper oversight by the legislature.
The Constitutional Court of Kosovo is a very important political stakeholder of the country. Not only in terms of final interpretation of the Constitution, but also in terms of resolving political disputes. Whenever political parties find it difficult to get out of their political crises, they turn to the Court for its interpretation, while at the same time accusing the institution as being biased and politically motivated.
Parliamentary election to be held this Sunday, 14 February, is also a ramification of the Constitutional Court ruling, that found that the election of Hoti’s government had not been legal. According to the Court, a vote of one MP, which was decisive to elect the new government was illegal, due to his prior conviction for a criminal offense.
In fact, this judgment only accelerated the dissolution of the Parliament, which was incapable of electing a new president, after the resignation of President Thaçi in November last year. The failure of the Parliament to elect the president leads by default to the dissolution of the Parliament and new elections.
The current election is surrounded by a highly polarized social and political atmosphere. On one hand, there is the Self-determination Movement, which was in power for less than two months, and on the other hand, political parties that have ruled the country since 1999 and on, with short breaks in-between in opposition. Whenever the situation gets polarized, the interest of citizens to vote increases.
During election campaigns, political parties are full of promises to serve the “interests of the citizens” and a stronger ” rule of law”. Ironically enough, they are uttering these words on large public rallies in the middle of a global pandemic, thereby risking citizens contract the COVID-19 virus, ignoring the official restrictions on rallies set by competent institutions and the law. Such an election campaign is an ambition of political parties, without any exceptions; and that when it is about the power, they consider themselves above the law and have no respect for the health and lives of the constituents they represent.
Representation of ethnic minorities in the Parliament is guaranteed by the Constitution. Out of 120 seats, 20 seats are set-aside for non-majority communities living in Kosovo, respectively 10 for the Serbian community and another 10 for other non-Albanian and non-Serbian communities. Albanian and Serbian parties have whet their appetite to control the seats of the latter, by creating satellite parties, denying their genuine representation. In addition, the representation of the Serbian community in the Parliament is no better. Since the founding of the Serbian List seven years ago, Serbs living in Kosovo have no real alternatives left. The Serbian List has won all 10 seats in the parliament guaranteed for the Serb Community. This political entity is under the control of the Serbian government, whose interests it protects, more than those of local Serbs. Moreover, according to EU election observers, Kosovo Serbs are intimidated to not vote for other political parties, apart from the Serbian List.
This time around, political rivalry is much higher. PDK, as a party emerging from the war wing, will do the main battle with the smaller party, fighting to pass the 5% election threshold, NISMA. This political entity was founded after splitting from the PDK and both are trying to win over the pro-KLA sentiment, following the first indictments by the “Special Court” in The Hague, dealing with war crimes allegations. LDK, as the oldest party, is making efforts to preserve its electorate, as this party’s candidate for the prime minister in the last elections joined the candidates’ list of its political rival, VV.
On the other hand, VV, which has strong leadership and, in the recent polls, was projected to be the winner of the 2021 election, is conducting a triumphant campaign, without any big promises and by disregarding public debates and other rival parties. Expectations from VV are high, especially in terms of the fight against corruption and the generation of new jobs. The rivals of both VV and its leader, Albin Kurti, raised fear that his victory could install an authoritarian regime and damage the relations with the U.S.
In addition to solving the ordinary problems of citizens, such as employment, justice and health, the next government is also expected to resolve the issue with Serbia, which refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence. The dialogue on the normalization of relations facilitated by the European Union has been long overdue, and now more than ever, expectations are it would finally be settled. During the election campaign, political parties have constantly steered clear of discussing this topic, and developed no programs in terms of their approach towards the dialogue, when it is well known that since the outset of this process, almost all governments, fell precisely due to the issue of the dialogue with Serbia.
Each coalition emerging from this election, needs 80 votes (2/3 of all MPs) in order to endure, not only to elect the new president, but also to ratify the final agreement with Serbia, if concluded by relevant parties in Brussels. Hence, the possibility of having new elections this year should not be dismissed. Hence, having new elections again this year is a highly likely scenario.