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Kurti’s vote in Albanian elections – controversial but not unprecedented in the Balkans

Albin Kurti voting in 2021 Albanian elections; Photo: Twitter / @albinkurti

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti voted yesterday in Albanian elections, as a citizen of both countries. His action raised eyebrows, but it was hardly a precedent in the region.

“The sun is shining bright in Albania today as they vote in parliamentary elections. As I hold dual citizenship I exercised my right to vote early and urge everyone to vote massively. As Prime Minister I will increase and intensify cooperation with whomever wins the elections”, wrote Kurti on his Twitter account on Sunday, sharing photos of him voting at a polling station in Tirana.

Since his election as the Prime Minister, Kurti’s positions on potential unification of Kosovo and Albania have been closely scrutinized. In an interview for Euronews this February, he stated that he would support such a move, if it could be done peacefully. He also recognised the fact that this would require amending the Constitution of Kosovo, which explicitly forbids unification with another country. No steps have so far been taken to achieve this goal.

Kurti’s vote in Albanian elections also came after two weeks of controversies caused by a “non-paper“, allegedly coming from Slovenia, which proposed significant border changes in the Western Balkans, including the unification of Kosovo and Albania. The existence of the non-paper has not been confirmed.

In another Twitter post, Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament, Viola von Cramon (Greens/EFA), voiced her concerns with Kurti’s actions.

“I cannot understand what this is all about. On one hand everyone in Kosovo complains about interference from Serbia or from President Vučić himself, but on the other hand here does the PM of Kosovo even vote in a neighbouring state. Not acceptable. At least not for me”, von Cramon wrote.

President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić himself commented on the issue, claiming that if he indeed were to vote in Kosovo elections, the reactions would have been much sharper.

“Although Kosovo is part of Serbia according to our Constitution, what would they say if I voted in Gračanica, Zvečan or Zubin Potok (majority Serb-populated areas of Kosovo), even though those two things are not comparable. If I did that, it would be a scandal of world proportions, and when they actually speak that their are going for the unification of Pristina and Tirana, then the reactions are mild, some wonder and that is all”, said Vučić from Brussels, where he met with Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčak yesterday.

Leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina regularly vote in elections in Serbia and Croatia

Kurti’s move certainly did not set a precedent in the region, where other nationalist leaders also use their dual citizenship to vote in other countries.

Milorad Dodik, member of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus voted in 2020 Serbian parliamentary elections from Banja Luka. He holds citizenships of both BiH and Serbia.

Dodik, however, caused much more attention in 2018, when he voted in local elections in Belgrade, claiming that he has a “double residency” – in Banja Luka and Belgrade. Insider reported on an apparently absurd situation in which Dodik, President of Republika Srpska at the time, was granted residency in Belgrade, meaning that he had expressed intention to live there permanently.

Meanwhile, Dragan Čović, former member of BiH Presidency and leader of HDZ-BiH which represents ethnic Croats, has also voted several times in the elections of another country – in this case Croatia.

Following his vote in Croatian elections in 2015, some commentators described the situation as a scandal, pointing at the fact that he was a member of Presidency at the time. Čović also voted in Croatian elections held in July 2020.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the main focus of the media reporting on the alleged “non-paper”, which proposed its peaceful disintegration and division between Serbia and Croatia, with a smaller Bosniak-populated state remaining independent.

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