In-depth | Local Elections 2017

Shpend Ahmeti vs. Arban Abrashi

By - 14.11.2017

Candidates from Vetevendosje and LDK stake claims for capital.

On Nov. 19, the current mayor of Prishtina, Shpend Ahmeti of Vetevendosje, and the candidate running for his position, Arban Abrashi of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), will compete in a runoff election for the headship of the city’s Municipality. In the first round of local elections, held on Oct. 22, Ahmeti received 43.6 percent of the vote, whereas Abrashi won 35.8 percent.

Since the beginning of the election campaign, the two candidates stated that they see each other as their fiercest rivals, and have focussed their attacks on each other throughout the campaign.

Ahmeti often compared his mandate to the previous LDK administration, saying that two clear options exist: “moving forward, or giving Prishtina back to the people who brought it to the situation it is in.” He sees the first option as essential for Prishtina.

Abrashi has put forward his fair share of criticism as well, accusing Ahmeti of not implementing a series of promised projects and of using over 60 percent of the municipal budget for “operational spendings,” with only 40 percent going on capital investments.

The fields in which they focus their pledges are education, health care, infrastructure and public services.

Alongside the criticism, accusations and attacks, the two candidates have also presented their respective governing programs for the next four years.

Ahmeti has revealed his projects in the “Give wings to Prishtina” program, which covers ten fields over a total of 100 pledges. Abrashi meanwhile is competing with his “Program for Prishtina,” with projects divided into eight fields.

One of Ahmeti’s objectives in this campaign has been to increase the number of assembly members from his political party. According to Ahmeti, a small number of Assembly members in opposition to his policies penalised him in the previous mandate by creating blockades against him in the Municipal Assembly. However, he identifies his main goal as achieving a cleaner environment for the city of Prishtina.

On the other hand, throughout the election campaign, Abrashi has highlighted what he refers to as his most powerful trait: his more cooperative relationship with the Municipal Assembly, central institutions and foreign donors.

Regarding his program, Abrashi has highlighted that it is difficult to pick out one priority in particular because “each sector has its own issues.” He has expressed different pledges for each neighborhood.

Abrashi believes that allocating the budget to prioritize capital investments will be a turning point for Prishtina and will “give the capital the character of a developing city,” as well as, he claims, creating 30,000 new jobs.

Here, K2.0 presents a summary of their promises in the fields on which they focus: education, healthcare, infrastructure and public services.

Education

In the education section of his his “Give wings to Prishtina” program, Ahmeti initially summarizes the projects that he implemented in his last mandate.

He mentions the functionalization of seven kindergartens, the distribution of over 10 million meals for pupils of grades 1 to 4 [in all public primary schools in the past 4 years], the integration of around 450 pupils with special needs in education, the installation of 102 laboratories in schools, the functionalization of seven libraries in schools and the provision of technological equipment in 29 education facilities.

Ahmeti promises to build five new schools during his potential next mandate in the neighborhoods of Mati 1, Kalabri, Sofali, Arberi and Veternik, stating in his program that construction will begin next October, and are being financed through an agreement with the World Bank. In a televised debate, Ahmeti highlighted that he would also renovate two schools, though he did not specify which schools or the cost.

Further adding to his series of pledges regarding school infrastructure, Ahmeti has promised to build four more kindergartens throughout multiple neighborhoods, highlighting one in Bardhosh which will be multi-ethnic. He has stated that he has already secured funding for this, and that construction is expected to start in 2018.

On the other hand, Abrashi foresees the construction of new schools on a site in the southeast of the city which he has labelled “New Prishtina.” He promises to build seven new schools, nine kindergartens and a music school in the city.

Abrashi also promises to invest in school infrastructure, which he sees as a precondition for quality, as well as pledging to renovate high school facilities, add annexes in schools “wherever necessary” and supply physical education halls with the necessary equipment.

Furthermore, Abrashi promises to supply school laboratories with equipment, implement electronic school diaries and whole-day learning, functionalize libraries, supply schools with digital whiteboards to replace blackboards within 4 to 6 years, provide personal laptops to all teachers, and annually sponsor “School Days,” which would entail organizing ceremonial dinners for teachers on the traditional day dedicated to their school.

Ahmeti also believes that whole-day learning must be implemented and has mentioned a pilot project which was tested in a few schools in Prishtina during his past mandate. He has also promised to reform the appointment of teachers in schools, aiming to conduct electronic testing, so as to maximise transparency.

Meals for pupils were also a part of the discussion between the two candidates. Ahmeti said that he is thinking about reforming this in practice, mentioning the addition of fruit to these meals. On the other hand, Abrashi has stated that pupils should be served hot meals.

Health care

The establishment of the City Hospital is a common point in both programs. Ahmeti says that Prishtina is the only major region lacking a hospital which offers secondary services. He believes that it is necessary to build this hospital, in close proximity to the Kosovo University Clinical Center.

Ahmeti has made four pledges on health care. He believes that a lot has been done in this sector in the past mandate, mentioning the reform of Family Medicine Centers (FMCs), where 85 percent of patients have been able to receive treatment. Ahmeti says that these centers have been visited by 1.2 million patients and that 2.4 million services have been provided.

Ahmeti’s promises for the next mandate are as follows: building a Center for Autism and Down Syndrome (for which he says the location has been set and funding secured, with construction expected to start in early 2019), expanding the FMC network and building a center in the Veternik neighborhood, ‘zoning’ the city for primary health care services, and further improving the services which are offered in these centers.

The ‘zoning’ aspect will involve creating a database with information on how many residents each medical center can cover, and the capacity for offering services in the zones in which these centers are located.

Arban Abrashi foresees completing the FMC network in accordance with the following standards: “1 FMC per 10,000 residents and 1 specialist doctor and 2 nurses for every 2,000 patients.” He also promises to build an FMC in the Veternik neighborhood, as well as evaluating whether or not there is a need for a center in the Mati 2 neighborhood.

Another point in Abrashi’s “Plan for Prishtina” is compiling a master plan that will address the need to expand the emergency center network as the city also grows. He also promises the completion of FMCs by supplying them with modern equipment, ambulances, and x-ray and mammogram facilities, as well as the full functionalization of laboratories.

Abrashi also foresees the expansion of domestic medical services, promising that within his first year of governance, he will functionalize 8 mobile medical teams which would offer medical services in houses for people unable to visit medical centers.

Infrastructure

Despite his party’s frequent criticism of municipal and central budgets being allocated to ‘asphalt projects,’ Ahmeti has prioritized the construction of infrastructure in his program. One of his pledges states: “…the Municipality of Prishtina will allocate a substantial part of the budget for road infrastructure in cities and villages.”

Two projects which are included as part of Ahmeti’s pledges for the next mandate are the construction of “Road A,” a continuation of “Road B” in the Mati I neighborhood, and the establishment of a connection between the Fushe Kosove Roundabout and the Arberia neighborhood, on which construction has already begun.

There are two construction projects which were initiated in the last mandate, but are yet to be finished and also make up part of Ahmeti’s pledges for the next four years, specifically the two sewage collectors in Mat and Kalabria. According to Ahmeti, they are costly, but a priority for the next mandate.

Another pledge made by Ahmeti was that he would cooperate with international partners and donors to conduct a feasibility study for building a ring road around Prishtina. According to Ahmeti, this study would be utilized in discussions with the Kosovo Government, in attempts to prioritize the ring road at state level.

Ahmeti has also outlined smaller investments and interventions in the infrastructure of every neighborhood. Ahmeti promises to implement projects at a total value of 4 million euros for building sports fields and recreational areas in different neighborhoods.

Abrashi has made it clear how senseless he believes it is that the Municipality of Prishtina has spent so little on capital investments in the past four years and stated that he would focus on this kind of investment if he is to win the race for the capital’s top position. Abrashi foresees many capital projects in his program, including roads, a ring road, sewage collectors and water supply reservoirs.

He especially promises to tackle Prishtina’s road system, either through new constructions, rebuilding or renovation. The roads identified are: Road A and the continuation of Road B, the main ring road in the center of Prishtina which goes from the train tracks in Arberia to the main roundabout in Fushe Kosove, the “Bajram Bahtiri” road in Llukar, and the road that goes from “Sami Frasheri” high school towards the green market.

Abrashi also promises to build a fecal matter collector, a weather station and a waterworks.

He also pledges to improve urban and rural infrastructure and to invest in functionalizing at least six economic zones. According to him, the majority of markets will be brought back under municipal ownership and investments will be made to regulate its infrastructure. There will also be a series of investments made to open new markets in each neighborhood.

Abrashi foresees the continuation of cooperation with the central level for building the National Sports Center and the much discussed National Stadium “Arena Dardania” in the Bernice e Poshtme neighborhood of Prishtina.

Abrashi has also promised to build facades which would cover Prishtina’s buildings. When asked how much this investment would cost during a televised debate on Klan Kosova, Abrashi said: “we are evaluating this, but I would not want to elaborate because we want to achieve this through co-financing.”

Furthermore, Abrashi mentioned conducting feasibility studies for the possibility of creating a tram network in Prishtina. He has also said that they will conduct a feasibility study for potentially constructing a metro system, although he is aware that the capital investments required for this would be very costly.

Vetevendosje and LDK are considered fierce rivals in these local elections, especially in the runoff for the capital’s headship.

We will see who will have the chance to implement these promises for making “a European Prishtina,” an aim expressed by both candidates. The two are members of the political parties that have clashed with one another the most in recent years. Ahmeti managed to remove LDK from Prishtina’s headship in 2013 after LDK had held the municipality since the end of the war.

Soon after Ahmeti was elected as mayor, he and his party sent files to the prosecution which alleged that Isa Mustafa’s previous municipal government had breached the law. Even when LDK led the central government, tensions between them and Vetevendosje were high. LDK accused Vetevendosje of attacking Mustafa, by then prime minister, claiming that they endangered his life.

This history means Vetevendosje and LDK are considered fierce rivals in these local elections, especially in the runoff for the capital’s headship. On Sunday, citizens will have the opportunity to choose between the two parties that have already had a shot at governing in Prishtina. Who will get the next one?

Illustration: K2.0.

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