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The Consolidation of Institutions in Kosovo: What is the Nash Equilibrium for the Kosovar voter?

On the 14th of February 2021, Kosovo has held the fifth snap parliamentary elections since its independence in 2008. These elections followed the Constitutional Court ruling, which found that the Hoti Government did not receive a majority needed (61 votes) for the formation of the government due to the invalidity of one vote.  

The Hoti-LDK led government was voted on 3rd June 2020, after the Kurti-LVV led promising government was toppled down with a no-confidence vote, during the pandemic, by its coalition partner LDK.

The February snap parliamentary election results, for the second time, brought victory to the LVV. This time, LVV won a landslide victory of 49.95% (58 MPs), leaving behind establishment parties: PDK with 16.9 % (19MPs), LDK with 12.64% (15 MPs), AAK with 7.07% (8MPs), and leaving out of parliament NISMA with 2.5%

These snap election results have demonstrated that Kosovar citizens do punish political parties for lack of delivery; thus, using elections as a tool of democracy to bring down old and irresponsible elites.

The lack of delivery, mentioned above, by previous elites in power is not an opaque opinion, but is easily revealed while looking at Kosovo statistics related to employment, economy, justice, anti-corruption, FDI and similar. According to European Commission Country Reports on Kosovo, corruption remains widespread; according to US Central Intelligence Fact-book unemployment among youth of 15-24 is at 55%; according to World Bank statistics Kosovo was faced with a continuous decline in FDI.

Three important 14th February election results-based aspects are: the highest number of votes in the election history of Kosovo are received by one political party – LVV; the establishment party, LDK, has received the lowest number of votes in its history; NISMA – often seen as a kingmaker party in the past, has been left out of parliament.

It is also very important to highlight that four out of ten most voted candidates are women including the LVV presidential nominee Ms.Osmani who won the highest number of votes in the history of Kosovo. Of same importance is the fact that the gender quota of 30% has been surpassed by the election winner, thus LVV will have 40% women MPs.

In the February election campaign, for the first time, two political parties made public their nominees for the President (LVV presented Vjosa Osmani as their Presidential candidate and AAK their party leader – Ramush Haradinaj), although the President is elected by the Parliament and not by the popular vote. But, since these snap elections aligned with the election of the President, both parties made public their nominees as they wanted to gain legitimacy and leave behind the previous practice of electing presidents through under the table deals.

Based on the current election results which are not expected to change much, there are three possible scenarios based on the: (I) Likeliness and  (II) Favorability, as follows:

(1) The formation of the government with a simple majority (61 votes) will not be a difficult task. LVV has gained 58 seats in the Parliament, plus few votes from the non-Serb minorities would reach the 61 votes needed to form the government. Yet, this is only halfway to the consolidation of the institutions, as the President also needs to be elected.

Based on the Constitution, to elect the President, the presence of 2/3 of MPs is needed in the first two rounds of voting, to pass on to the third round when the President can be elected with a simple majority. Even with the 20 votes from the minorities, which will not be easy to garner, LVV will not be able to elect the President. 

Potential LVV political collaborations with the other three parliamentary groups to create a quorum for the voting process are presented below:

–  LVV + minorities and LDK: The current LDK leadership has resigned due to their low election results, creating space for reform within the party structures. This given, depending on the new leadership, there might be an opportunity to collaborate.

– LVV + minorities and PDK: this political collaboration does not seem realistic. Most possibly, PDK would not vote for Vjosa Osmani, thus LVV would have to give up its nominee and propose a new candidate or allow the PDK to propose one, depending on the agreement they might have together.

– LVV + minorities and AAK: The AAK during the election campaign has made public their nominee for the President, thus very unlikely would they vote for the LVV nominee or another bipartisan candidate.

This scenario is likely to take place as compared to the other two scenarios and is the most favorable for the citizens of Kosovo.

(2) The government is formed with a simple majority (61), yet they fail to elect the President within the constitutional deadline due to the polarized political climate and lack of compromise.

This given, the parliament will be dissolved, and the country would face a new round of snap elections.

For Kosovo, this is a costly decision in terms of budget, economy, and consolidation of statehood. Considering the poor election results for establishment parties that need time to reflect and reform, this scenario is unlikely to take place and is the least favorable one.

(3) The formation of the government with a strong majority (80 + MPs). This means a political agreement to form a government coalition with one of the political parties, in addition to minorities. This government coalition would have the needed votes to also elect the President.

However, this scenario is very unlikely to happen because LVV has already made it clear that they do not want to govern with any of the establishment parties and they have campaigned on these bases. At the same time, such a scenario requires major compromises.

This given, it remains a very unlikely scenario to happen, and less favorable compared to the first scenario, yet more favorable compared to going into new elections.

The three scenarios highlight the Nash Equilibrium – the voter’s desired outcome based on the election results to be the – full consolidation of institutions through an agreement with other political parties to have a quorum during the voting process.

Snap elections are considered the least favorable and unlikely scenario to happen. While LVV government coalition with one of the establishment parties is less favorable, yet a very unlikely scenario to happen.

To sum up, Kosovo is found in an institutional vacuum, with an Acting President who is also the Head of the Parliament, and a caretaker government in place. Thus, the least favorable scenario is to call on new elections, as that would cause further institutional instability and economic contraction. This given, the political parties should find a compromise and show political maturity by not blocking the creation of new institutions.

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