On Nov. 19, the incumbent mayor of Mitrovica, Agim Bahtiri from The New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), will attempt to win another mandate against PDK’s Valdete Idrizi. The runoff in Mitrovica looks likely to be one of the closest races, as the first round of voting on Oct. 22 finished with a very tight result: Idrizi came first with 29 percent, while Bahtiri followed just behind with 27 percent. In 2013, Bahtiri also came second in the first round of voting, but then won in the runoff against another PDK candidate, Avni Kastrati.
Bahtiri is asking to continue “the good job” as he describes it, insisting that Mitrovica needs to uproot the Kosovo National Intelligence Service (SHIK, the intelligence of arm of the Kosovo Liberation Army) from Mitrovica, a reference to Idrizi’s close links with the former head of the organization and current head of PDK, Kadri Veseli. He has also attacked Idrizi for becoming “a tool of PDK.”
Idrizi, who was the executive director of the ‘Community Building Mitrovica’ NGO before joining PDK earlier this year, has attacked Bahtiri for failing to fulfill his promises. She claims he is using the SHIK accusations only as a means of justifying his unaccomplished promises during his four year mandate.
In one of the fliers she shared on social media, Idrizi positions herself as a new face in politics, claiming: “People in Mitrovica are disappointed with politicians for many years. It’s time for something different ― it is time for a change. The slogan is somewhat divided from the party line, as PDK have governed for three mandates in the city of Mitrovica over the last 18 years.
In 2013, Bahtiri promised he would bring 15,000 new jobs to Mitrovica and open a number of factories. In a TV debate, Idrizi reminded him of this promise by saying that he totally has failed on this issue.
According to Idrizi, “only one mushroom factory was opened, with 70 employees,” and she has claimed that Mitrovica remains one of the poorest cities in Kosovo. In a response, Bahtiri ridiculed Idrizi by stating that in all their years in power, PDK opened just a single factory, describing its insignificance by claiming it “only had 15 hens.”
Outside of the economy and political associations, the debate in Mitrovica has primarily focused on investments in infrastructure and education. Here, K2.0 brings you a summary of the two candidates’ positions on these areas.
During many televised debates, Valdete Idrizi has promised to improve the state of hygiene in the schools of Mitrovica and has continually called for a “de-politicization” of schools, claiming that politically appointed staff have become a typical characteristic of Mitrovica’s schools during Bahtiri’s tenure. Bahtiri has rejected these claims, stating that only professionalism mattered and that he had changed the practices that had been established by PDK’s previous governance.
This autumn, some pupils in Mitrovica living in rural areas couldn’t access the municipality’s schools due to a lack of transport. Idrizi said that she would ensure that this would never happen under her mayorship. Bahtiri defended his administration, claiming that the transport operator was unable to fulfil its duties after its contract expired, and that otherwise all pupils in Mitrovica were guaranteed access to schooling.
In terms of providing new education facilities, Agim Bahtiri has promised three new kindergartens but did not specify in which neighbourhoods of Mitrovica he would locate them. Idrizi also promises to build more kindergartens and has selected the locations, pledging to build 7 kindergartens in Shipol, Iliri, Durqak, Frasher, Kshiq, Suhadoll and Tuneli i Pare.
Investments in infrastructure
Valdete Idrizi has promised to invest 100 million euros in capital investments, although the budget for capital investments in 2017 for Mitrovica was 3 million euros, out of the municipality’s 16.7 million euro total budget for the year.
However, Idrizi has frequently reiterated that she has the support of central government and has often been seen with head of the Assembly and PDK leader Kadri Veseli during her campaign. Idrizi also promises to establish the office for local development which she insists will help collect funds from various state and international organisations.
In a visit to the village of Boletin, alongside Veseli, Idrizi promised to build the ‘Kulla of Men’ in the house of World War one fighter, Isa Boletini, but has not revealed how much spending would be allocated for finishing the project.
One of the biggest capital investments proposed by Agim Bahtiri is the completion of the infrastructure around the free economic zone in Mitrovica. Bahtiri has calculated that fulfilling this promise would cost around 5 million euros.
In a televised debate with Idrizi, Bahtiri stated that he has secured the support of central government, of which his party, AKR, is now part. Bahtiri has justified his record by saying that he lacked support from the previous central government to implement his promises to complete the industrial zone.
In another televised debate, Bahtiri expressed his ambitions to secure a loan from Austria, announcing that the municipality applied for 12 million euros to complete the sewers and water supply in the municipality’s villages, as well as in the city of Mitrovica.
Bahtiri has also promised to build two big parking lots. While one of them will be underground, the other will be a 4 storey parking lot, built in the center of Mitrovica. Bahtiri did not specify the location and the amount of money to be spent on the project, but promises to complete the two parking lots within 2018.
It is a promise echoed by Idrizi. However, the PDK candidate plans to place one parking lot at the entrance of Mitrovica when travelling from Shipol, and another 350 underground parking complex by the entrance of the city from Shupkoc.
In 2013, Bahtiri broke the traditional rivalry between PDK and LDK, who have always governed in Mitrovica since the war. The confirmation of his position in the runoff shows that it is more than just a temporary disruption and the less than 1,000 votes difference between Bahtiri and Idrizi in the first round makes the race for the mayorship of Mitrovica an engrossing one.K