Lately | Democracy

Elections: What happens next?

All you need to know as political negotiations begin.

As was always expected, Kosovo’s general election on June 11 produced no party with a clear majority and therefore no obvious ‘winner.’ Vetevendosje may be celebrating the biggest increase in votes, doubling its support from 2014, but it was the PAN coalition of PDK, AAK and Nisma that received the biggest electoral backing, despite its parties’ share of the vote from last time around decreasing.

The outcome has seen both PAN prime ministerial candidate Ramush Haradinaj and Vetevendosje prime ministerial candidate Albin Kurti claiming that they will be Kosovo’s next prime minister. Meanwhile on TV debate shows, Facebook and traditional media there has been a raft of debate and speculation about what will happen next.

While there are still a number of unknowns, K2.0 has scoured the legal framework and consulted constitutional experts to bring you a breakdown of where things stand and what should happen next.

What’s happening now?

The main political parties will already have started behind-the-scenes maneuvers to try to firm up their positions and see what deals may be on the table.

But the next formal step in the process is for the Central Election Commission (CEC) to officially announce the certified results from Sunday’s poll, a step that usually takes place with a couple of days of the ballot itself but is taking longer this time.

While the outcome of the election is highly unlikely to change in any significant way — PAN has secured 39 seats, Vetevendosje 31 and LAA (LDK, AKR, Alternativa) 30 — the official announcement is important for two reasons.

Firstly, due to Kosovo’s voting system of Open Lists, the announcement will confirm which deputies have been elected, and precisely what the balance of power is within each of the pre-election coalitions, PAN and LAA. This could become significant later on as it will give us a better indication of the different parties’ bargaining power and potential governing coalition permutations.

Secondly, the official announcement triggers a timescale that must be adhered to, according to the Constitution. After the official announcement of the results, the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, must convene a constitutive session of the Assembly within 30 days. (If the president is unable to do so, the session can be convened without his participation).

At the constitutive session, the largest parliamentary group, in this case PAN, nominates a President of the Assembly, in order to pave the way for forming the government. The President of the Assembly must secure the votes of a simple majority of deputies to be elected.

How does the government-forming process work?

According to a Constitutional Court ruling (which interpreted Articles 84 and 95 of Kosovo’s Constitution) following the disputed 2014 election outcome, Kosovo’s president proposes the candidate from the largest ‘party or coalition’ — in this case, Ramush Haradinaj from PAN — to be prime minister.

Once a prime minister has been nominated, they have 15 days to form a government, by having their proposed composition of the government (including ministers and deputy ministers) approved by a simple majority of deputies in the Assembly.

Does PAN have the numbers?

In order to form a government, a coalition needs to have a minimum of 61 deputies — a simple majority of the 120 total.

As PAN is the largest ‘party or coalition’ with an anticipated 39 deputies, it will be given the first opportunity to form a government. However it would need to form an additional coalition, which looks to be by no means a straightforward task.

Even assuming that PAN secures the support of the 20 deputies from minority communities (that are constitutionally reserved in the Assembly), it would still require an extra two deputies to make a majority, which would need to come from Vetevendosje or LAA — both have ruled out going into coalition with PAN.

While this would appear to preclude a PAN-led coalition, LDK also ruled out joining a coalition with PDK after the elections in 2014, before going back on that decision after six months of political deadlock. Haradinaj has already hinted that his coalition would be attempting to get LDK on board, a possibility that has been outright rejected by LDK.

PAN could also attempt to poach deputies from one of the other parties to help get them across the line to the 61 candidates. This could either entail offering individual deputies deals to defect from their parties, or, depending on the number of deputies secured by the constituent parts of the LAA coalition, PAN could attempt to persuade one of the smaller parties such as AKR or Alternativa to join it.

If PAN can’t form a government, will Vetevendosje get a go?

If the initial prime ministerial nominee is unable to secure the votes to form a government, the president, “at his/her discretion,” consults with the parties and coalitions, before nominating a different candidate for prime minister within 10 days.

It is assumed that as the prime ministerial candidate for the second largest ‘party or coalition’ in the election, Vetevendosje’s Albin Kurti would at this point be nominated by Thaci (and Kurti in turn would have 15 days to get a government composition approved by an Assembly majority).

The 2014 Constitutional Court ruling adds an element of doubt here, stating that the president could at this point choose to nominate another candidate from the same ‘party or coalition.’ However according to constitutional experts it is clear in this instance that there is no ambiguity, because of point 94 of the ruling, which states:

“Since, under the Constitution the President of the Republic represents the state and the unity of the people, it is the President’s responsibility to preserve the stability of the country and to find prevailing criteria for the formation of the new government in order for elections to be avoided.

In other words, the president should not be involved in party politics in any way, and if they denied the second largest party the opportunity to form a government, they would be breaching the Constitution.

Would Vetevendosje have the numbers?

Vetevendosje would also need to form a coalition in order to get the 61 seats that it would need to form a government, as alone it has just 31 deputies.

Albin Kurti and other leading Vetevendosje members have expressed a willingness to form a coalition with LAA, which has in turn strongly hinted that a potential coalition with Vetevendosje is on the table.

Adding LAA’s 30 deputies to Vetevendosje’s 31 would give it the 61 deputies required, even before taking into account the 20 deputies from the minority communities.

Kurti has also suggested that he would be willing to reach out to certain members of the PAN coalition.

What happens if a second attempt to form a government fails?

If the government is not selected for a second time, the country heads to early elections, to be held within 40 days.K

Feature image: K2.0.