Political debates and heated discussions are taking place every day as Kosovo anticipates Sunday’s early general election. While political parties are busy delivering unrealistic promises and political analysts are trying to choose who is the best fit for office, the voters are left wondering if there is any use in voting after all!
As I seek to understand the rational voter, I urge you to think critically and thoroughly about the crucial times we are living in. As Franklin Pierce Adams once said, “Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.” The time has come to cast that vote for someone you truly believe in, for those policies and programs that represent you as a citizen of Kosovo and not the corrupt political elite.
It is almost natural to think of corruption when we think of elections in Kosovo. Certain individuals with their own agendas can skew voting, provide parties big donations or in the worst situations parties or candidates can buy votes instead of winning them. Overall you get the bigger picture: Political interests and staying in power always comes first and public interest comes second.
However, the politicians try to argue the opposite and manipulate the public into thinking that there is no room for corrupt leaders. But let’s check the facts.
For 10 years corruption has continued to flourish, both in the public and private sector. The judicial system is considered to be the most corrupt public institution in Kosovo.
For 10 years companies have encountered corruption when dealing with public services and report that bribes are occasionally demanded when getting public utilities. The customs administration presents a high level of corruption risk for foreign companies, despite efforts to minimize this phenomenon.
For 10 years corruption has undermined the health sector in Kosovo.
For 10 years corruption has occurred in public schools and universities.
And in more than 10 years we have not learned that we, the ‘people,’ have the power to change this!
According to the European Commission’s 2015 Progress Report on Kosovo, the state has strong anti-corruption legislation but authorities have not been successful in investigating, prosecuting, and jailing corrupt individuals. The social bonds between politicians and party members in Kosovo are almost unbreakable and the fear of reporting a colleague is higher than getting caught. All of which undermine the political will to implement anti-corruption legislation and ultimately prosecute corrupt politicians. Moreover, corruption has become a norm in our public institutions. These norms dictate to which extent individuals engage and expect others to engage in corruption, nepotism or other illegal behavior. An alarming fact is that this type of behavior has become highly institutionalized, to an extent that private, rather than public, interests dictate policy and politics.
Despite continuous efforts from civil society to help raise awareness around corruption, there is still a great deal to confront. Various NGOs are often seen as chasing funds from the international community and the government disregards their activities. A lack of cooperation between the government and civil society, particularly on anti-corruption efforts, has made it even more difficult for the citizens to be better informed and educated on such issues. Although a great deal has been established by different organizations within Kosovo to address corruption, there is still a lot to be done.
However, with your thoughtful vote, organizations can count on that important political will to not only openly talk about corruption, but also to encourage public institutions to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption.
Politicians in Kosovo have recognized that the fight against corruption is not only a noble cause but it is also a cause that can get them elected. It is therefore crucial that you read through a candidate’s political rhetoric, research their anti-corruption plans and engage in their discussions.
Corruption is a highly complicated process and so should the anti-corruption process be. We cannot merely expect that an invisible hand will find the cure for this cancer. Even electing the right politicians to represent you in this election might not solve this issue, given its complexity. But it could, however, build honest political will that would not only fully implement anti-corruption legislation, but also provide innovative preventative mechanisms.
Our duty as citizens of Kosovo is now to challenge corruption and insist on an accountable and transparent government. As Joe Biden has been quoted as stating: “Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s patriotism.” On the June 11 go out and use your right to vote and don’t forget: Corruption and cronyism will only hold you back!
Feature image: K2.0.