Perspectives | Elections 2019

Fed up with the election options? It’s time to consider tactical voting

By - 18.09.2019

How an unorthodox vote could change Kosovo for the better.

Here we are again, smack in the middle of another round of the political circus that we also seem to call a general election. That time in the biennium of our lives where, once again, all the focus is on us, the people, and under whom we will decide to spend the next couple of years, until the whole process starts anew.

If you think this seems a little bit cynical, but it also sounds true at the same time, you are not alone. Public apathy in cafés, shops, bars, workplaces and homes toward anything political seems dense in the air as people honestly don’t see the point in this whole spectacle, as nothing seems to change at the end of it.

If this is how you feel, you are not alone — more than 42,000 people spoiled their ballot papers in the last election, many of them no doubt because they saw the available political choices as “not really for them.”

If you were one of them, or you are thinking of spoiling your ballot this time as you count down the days until this year’s process is over, I urge you to read on — you can still do something really important in these upcoming elections.

And you can do so not by violating your principles but by preserving all your ideas about the futility of the current political structures and while also making Kosovo a stronger country for all its citizens. 

My suggestion is to vote tactically.

Reducing the malevolent power of Srpska Lista

Kosovo is a weird country in many ways but not least when it comes to elections.

With its 1.97 million registered voters, it has been well documented that Kosovo has more voters than people. That one, however, is a story for another day.

The weirdness that is particularly relevant here is that our electoral system is not constructed as a single-constituency one-person-one-vote type democracy. Not in any practical sense at least. 

That’s because, according to Kosovo’s Constitution, 20 of the 120 total seats in the Kosovo Assembly are reserved for candidates from minority communities; 10 for Serb representatives and 10 split between representatives of the four other officially recognized minority communities.

In practice, this means that Kosovo has a two-tier electoral system, where your vote is counted differently depending on “who” you voted for; any vote for minority parties will increase the value of your vote by a serious margin. 

Also, any party in Kosovo registered as a minority party, representing “minority values” is sure to have a disproportionate amount of strength, compared with the number of votes they get, since minority communities also have representation guaranteed in the executive branch.

This is extremely weird to anyone who knows anything about how democracies should operate, but as it is a fact, we have to adjust to it and try to make it work in our favor.

If less than 2% of voters chose to vote for a moderate Serb politician, then Srpska Lista would lose all of its power.

So, how can we do that? How can we use this weird system we have to change Kosovo’s political landscape for the better? 

It’s easy. 

If less than 2% of voters chose to vote for a moderate Serb politician, then Srpska Lista (Serb List) — which openly follows the orders of another state — would lose all of its power in the Assembly. We could use the weirdness of our electoral system to push out a very damaging part of Kosovo’s day-to-day politics and also push back against Serbia by eliminating their stranglehold on constitutional changes, minority representation, international politics and much more.

Less than 2% of us could do all that. Remake Kosovo’s political structure and make our country better than it was before, by electing a minority (Serb) candidate that recognizes our state and that represents Kosovo and not Serbia.

Here’s how it would work.

In the last electoral cycle, Srpska Lista had a total of 44,500 votes, more than 11 times the support of the second Serb party, the Independent Liberal Party (SLS), which picked up only around 3,500 votes. That gave Srpska Lista a majority of nine out of the 10 seats that are reserved for Serb minority parties. 

And for all of us, it gave us a governmental cycle full of Srpska Lista blocking everything aforementioned and not allowing any progress to be made, all that by the directive of another country — in this case, Serbia. 

The voting power of Srpska Lista remains very steady from election to election, so we can think of around 40,000 votes as their constant. A recent Electoral Commission decision — which determined that only people with Kosovar documents are allowed to vote — could actually see that number reduced this time around, but as this is somewhat unpredictable, for the sake of argument, let’s use this “worst case scenario” figure.

What we need to do to eliminate their strength in the Kosovar political sphere is to lower their representation from nine deputies in the parliament to six (or less); this number would give them less than one-third of the seats reserved for minority candidates and thereby eliminate their effective veto on constitutional changes (which require support from two-thirds of deputies in reserved seats). 

By doing so, and at the same time electing a moderate Serb politician (and there are plenty) that opposes Srpska Lista and also wishes to live in Kosovo as a free state, we’d get a parliament where we might be able to: change the constitution to create a real army; make real changes in the lives of minorities without direction from a different state; choose how we wish to use the powers in our Constitution ourselves; and also potentially eliminate the reserved seats (that were only intended as a temporary “transitional” solution), to make Kosovo’s a truer democratic system.

All of that with only 2% of Kosovar electoral strength. Not bad, if I may say so.

Why 2%? 

Kosovo’s election system — which uses something known as the Webster/Sainte Lague method — means that if two parties have (close to) the same number of votes, the number of seats allocated is the same for both. It would therefore take just 2% of Kosovo’s 1.97 million registered voters to match the 40,000 voters that usually vote for Srpska Lista. 

With 2% of the electorate voting for moderate Serb parties, Srpska Lista would be pushed out of the majority needed to block anything in the next parliament. Anything more than 2%, would virtually eliminate them completely, reducing their strength to less than a handful of deputies.

I cannot stress enough how important this would be for Kosovar democracy, and what is even more important is that we have the power in our own hands.

We’d need to just see that voting is not only there to waste your time every couple of years (as there are a lot of us who see it as such), but that voting is there to make our country stronger, and it is here that voting tactics can be of great use.

Benjamin Franklin was once asked by a group of citizens about what type of government they were creating. Franklin replied: “A republic, if you can keep it!” I think that our small democracy should have the same courtesy as the one Franklin advocated as we are the keepers of our democracy. 

So, it stands on our shoulders to keep it as such — if we wish to! 

Tactical voting is a simple way of defending our republic by strengthening it democratically and doing so remembering our core values and being true to what we believe in. 

This is something you don’t get to do very often, so it’s worth your consideration at the very least…

Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha & Arrita Katona / K2.0.

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  • 22 Sep 2019 - 20:47 Natan:

    So it is a given, that reserved seats for minorities are something to fight against in the name of democracy?

  • 18 Sep 2019 - 11:59 Burim:

    Brilliant! That's exactly the type of progressive and 'out of the box' thinking Kosovo needs this coming election cycle!

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