One-on-one | Politics

Korab Sejdiu: “If we consider the long term, I believe AKR made a mistake”

By - 13.09.2017

The newly independent deputy speaks about his reasons for leaving AKR and his future in politics.

Young Kosovo Assembly deputy, Korab Sejdiu, became the most talked about person in politics when he resigned from the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) after it reached an agreement with the PAN coalition, enabling the formation of a government. “It is more than clear that my views regarding what’s best for the country differ from the views of the New Kosovo Alliance, and it is evident that I stand alone in this regard,” he announced in his first public statement after resigning.

Meanwhile, Sejdiu will continue to serve as an independent deputy in this mandate. The 39 year old lawyer believes that his decision to resign from AKR was just, and based on promises that he made to over 8,500 voters in the June 11 elections.

However, he is cautious when speaking about his former party. Although he does not agree with their decision to govern with the PAN coalition, he believes it is still a “democratic” decision.

Though Sejdiu has been part of AKR in the last four years, serving as vice-president of the party, he started his political career with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in 2008.

In an interview with K2.0, Sejdiu speaks in detail about his decision to resign from the party, his future in politics, and what he aims to convey to the youth. Photo Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

K2.0: Your resignation from AKR has been assessed by many as being consistent with your attitude and your past promises, that you would not cooperate with those who you consider as people who have damaged the country, namely the PAN coalition. Others have said that there is no need to label your decision as heroic, that it is rather just a case of you upholding your political stance. How do you see it?

Korab Sejdiu: Frankly, I agree with my immediate pronouncement, but I also agree with the idea that I have not done something unique. It is unfortunate that our political scene has been degraded to the extent that even a normal act, like keeping your word, is seen as something special. What should be an exception is now a rule. I would gladly advocate for everyone to behave in this way, and for the media to pay attention to in which politicians did not keep their word, and not ones in which they did.

People who have hailed your decision have also considered the fact that AKR has a political heritage of cooperation with PDK.

If we look at Kosovo’s recent history after the war, we understand that mutual cooperation has characterized our political scene. However, my decision was not based on the fact that AKR cooperated with PAN subjects in the past. It was simply based on the platform that we built before and during the campaign, but also on the lessons that we learned from past collaborations — such a collaboration left AKR out of the parliament in the 2014 elections. LDK was also damaged by the coalition they formed with PDK.

“It is difficult to abandon a party after spending four years contributing to it and rebuilding it virtually from scratch.”

Our platform was built as such, and our votes were won based on the premise that we would not cooperate with people who have brought Kosovo in the position it is in.

The head of AKR, Behgjet Pacolli, has said that the decision to join the PAN coalition came after the party headship agreed to initiate negotiations with PAN regarding the formation of a coalition. So Mr. Pacolli wanted to diffuse responsibility, to implicate that it was not a decision that was made by him individually. How do you see this statement? Was it a decision made by the headship? Were there others like yourself who disagreed?

I can honestly say that my attitude has been consistent from the start, and that I made this clear to everyone, including Mr. Pacolli. I cannot speak about decisions made by the president or others, and it is not my purpose to have my decision be taken as a form of judgement for decisions that they made. I am simply a deputy, and he leads the party and has other responsibilities.

But you were also the vice-president of AKR?

I was one of the vice-presidents, but the responsibilities of the president differ from the responsibilities of the vice-presidents. Thus it would be more fitting if you ask AKR and Mr. Pacolli about this.

What was your initial reaction when Mr. Pacolli informed you about the newfound coalition with PAN?

I was informed about the desire to review the possibility of cooperating with PAN. I took this piece of information very seriously. The following days were very difficult for me spiritually. Subsequently, I reached a decision which was outstandingly difficult.

It is difficult to abandon a party after spending four years contributing to it and rebuilding it virtually from scratch, because the party was in an extraordinary position after the losses we endured in the past elections, when we were left out of parliament. Furthermore, there are people in the party with whom I have collaborated throughout the years, so it took some time for me to reach this difficult decision — nevertheless I knew in my soul and in my mind that it was the right decision.

Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Did you consider the possibility of pursuing alternative practices in Kosovar politics by not voting for the coalition with PAN but still remaining as a member of AKR? Vjosa Osmani is an example of this. At times she voted against the Mustafa government but remained as a member of LDK. She was not expelled and she did not resign either. Did you consider this practice?

Absolutely, but I believe that the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Osmani and the Democratic League were somewhat different.

Why do you say that?

Because she was not alone with her mindset and opposition. There were other deputies within the Democratic League and a part of the electorate who also opposed it.

Did AKR request that you remain as a member of the party despite your disapproval of the PAN coalition?

Certainly.

There seemed to be a degree of indifference in the statement made by Mr. Rrahim Pacolli [organizational secretary at AKR] regarding your resignation, as if the door is open for everyone and people can come and go as they please. He conveyed a sense of negligence towards your role as vice-president of the party.

I had a relationship with president Behgjet Pacolli, and naturally with other colleagues, vice-presidents and headship members. AKR supported the idea of me remaining as a component of the party, and no-one influenced my vote, not president Pacolli, not my former colleagues — for this I am very thankful.

Why are you thankful? You were a renowned AKR figure. Should they not see this as a loss?

What I am trying to say is that I am thankful that the president and my colleagues offered to support me in continuing this political journey with them.

You are trying to be very constructive. However, did you not reach this decision out of discontent?

No. I want to be realistic and I want to appreciate their positive political actions of the past.

Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

AKR defines itself as a liberal party. However, it has also often been seen as a party that is directed by the Pacolli family. Some have labelled it as a party of business. How do you see this?

The right of free speech exists in our country and this results in prejudice against political parties and deputies. I am not one of them. AKR, as a liberal party, is an example for other parties, but on the other hand, naturally it has its flaws, as do other parties.

What do you believe motivated AKR to join the PAN coalition?

I believe it was pragmatism. The idea was to be pragmatic and solve the political deadlock. It is a situation that could not be left hanging by waiting for things to sort themselves out. Naturally AKR have become empowered politically in the context of the responsibilities which they now have in this government, and I believe that they now have great responsibilities.

How disappointed are you with AKR? From what we’ve discussed up until now I do not notice a sense of disappointment on your part. You are presenting it as something very normal, whereas you resigned because of the discontent you felt as a result of a decision.

I am very disappointed with the Albanian majority because we had a rare opportunity to set aside partisan and personal interests and form a majority in parliament, and then a government that is directly controlled by the Albanian majority; naturally other communities that live in Kosovo would comprise this government as well. But we must not be conditioned by Lista Srpska.

What about in relation to AKR specifically?

Naturally I am very unhappy that AKR reached this decision because my life has also been affected negatively. However, naturally I cannot judge such a decision because it was reached by the party.

Why can’t you judge it if you have resigned? Do you believe it was a democratic decision?

It was democratic.

How many votes were for it?

I am not sure about the details, the number of votes. However, only one or two votes were against the decision of giving president Pacolli the competence to seek a solution outside of the LAA coalition. In the AKR assembly only two votes were against, whereas the overwhelming majority supported the decision to allow president Pacolli to find a solution outside of the coalition.

Would it have been better if you remained as part of LAA?

I am not sure whether that would have solved the political deadlock.

This was Mr. Pacolli’s justification? That there is no solution to the political deadlock?

I reiterate that there was no willingness shown by Levizja Vetevendosje or the Democratic League for moving forward towards the formation of an Albanian majority. I personally did not think it was reasonable to move in the direction that allows Belgrade to hold us hostage, simply because there was a lack of solutions at hand.

“Our society has reached the point where keeping your word is an exception, not a rule.”

Do you consider AKR’s decision to join PAN as wrong, despite the numerous ministerial positions that the former secured in government?

Despite the positions, in the long term, I believe it was the wrong decision, because AKR does not have a history of utilizing and misusing ministries that they lead in order to employ their militants and misuse the budget.

AKR was part of the Thaci II government, and we know that certain AKR exponents were involved in corruption.

I do not know anything about this.

For example, when the government building was built by MABETEX [a company owned by Pacolli], it started off with an anticipated cost of 7 million euros and ended up costing 15 million euros. Critics saw this as a direct influence by Pacolli.

I am not aware of the details. It was probably before my involvement in the party.

For you as an individual, what meaning does your case have in a situation in which it seems the party is not bothered about promises and principles that it has emphasized in the past, and when these promises seem to be set aside whenever individual interests are at stake?

That is why I stated in the beginning of the interview that it is concerning that our society has reached the point where keeping your word is an exception, not a rule.

I hope that it conveys a message to the younger generation of politicians in all parties, that it is okay to refuse positions and political advancement if it means keeping the promises that you’ve made to the electorate and the citizens. Naturally we must be careful not to make promises that are unachievable, because then we put ourselves in difficult situations.

My objective has been to help the country and its citizens, and the Republic of Kosovo as a state, through my service.

Can such a political profile triumph in Kosovo’s political culture, when personal interests are often prioritized?

Maybe it cannot. Maybe I have made a political mistake by keeping my word and doing such a thing. Maybe there are people who have told me: “Don’t be stupid, because in three days time people will have forgotten what you’ve said. Take the position that is offered to you because you’ll have more political power”.

“Whenever I personally evaluate that a certain proposal is against the interests of the citizens and the country, I will always vote against.”

However, I believe that when I ran for deputy, I took the responsibility that comes with the role very seriously, and I thought about our youth in a very clear way. We must send a message to our youth so that they know how to act in difficult situations.

Our youth, which is the overwhelming majority of our population, must understand that they must not be content with people that drive government 4x4s and win tenders. Rather they must look up to people who want what’s best for the country, people who try to be good and make decisions that trump all other possible offers, because they want to uphold their principles.

You have declared yourself as an independent deputy of the Kosovo Assembly. How will you proceed with your political activity?

I have stated that I will remain for a period of time as an independent deputy and I aim to contribute constructively as an independent deputy, and naturally also as a member of certain commissions. I hope to be nominated in commissions that suit my sphere, so that my contribution can be a great one. My objective is to work on the three points that I have promoted throughout my campaign — empowering the youth, creating new jobs through economic development and naturally seeking justice for citizens.

In an interview with K2.0 in the past you’ve said that you aim to work in politics for a few years. With which party do you aim to collaborate so as to reach these objectives?

Time-wise, I am in a comfortable position, as my mandate has just started, thus I will utilize this period to conduct a personal evaluation — specifically, whether I will continue my work in politics, and if I will, which party I will join in doing so.

Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.

Hypothetically, if you do remain in politics, taking into account your stance up until this point, the two natural options are joining Vetevendosje or returning to LDK. Which is the most achievable option?

Let me answer your question by first saying that I do not see myself as a deputy that votes against, just for the sake of voting against. Whenever I personally evaluate that a certain proposal is against the interests of the citizens and the country, I will always vote against. However, I will vote for any proposition that is for the good of Kosovo, whether I am in government or in opposition. I have a longstanding history of collaboration with many deputies. Some I’ve known for longer, some I know better… but good cooperation is good with whomever it happens.

The idea of you joining one of these two opposition parties has been mentioned quite a bit.

Yes, but few people have knowledge about my personal relations with specific members of the Democratic League or Levizja Vetevendosje.

Shouldn’t ideas and ideological similarities be reasons for joining a party, rather than individual relations with certain people?

Precisely, and I think that people must unify based on ideological aspects. But I mentioned personal relations because the personal relations and friendships that I share with them are sometimes being communicated as potential political collaborations. When I stop to chat with others, it is being interpreted incorrectly. I can be great friends with someone and still not agree on aspects of taxation, or the way the economy or the justice system must be developed.

Is leaving politics an option?

Naturally. At the end of my mandate I can return to my profession and leave politics. There are great burdens in politics. Naturally, you are in the eye of the public, and not only you personally… so are your friends and family. It is a burden and a sacrifice for the family.K

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla K2.0.

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