Perspectives | Democracy

History belongs to the citizens

By - 04.06.2020

Let’s play our part in writing June 3.

On June 3, 2020, the skies over the city of Prishtina exploded in fireworks. 

In what seems to have become “a tradition” in our “independent” Kosovo, post-’99, one could be forgiven for assuming that they were meant to symbolize the day’s voting of a new government. That is, a celebration.

June 3, 2020, was anything but a celebration. You do not have to be a supporter of any political party — just a democrat — to see that.

But as June 3 turns into June 4, in the midst of the current political saga, I continue to remain a believer that history does not belong only to the self-proclaimed righteous; to those who have and continue to capture power. History is something that we can, and do, all possess — as citizens. 

Here is one way for the unfolding history to be recorded.

On June 3, Kosovo citizens’ will and freedom of choice was not just disregarded, but attempted to be made irrelevant in the face of free, democratic processes — one as simple as voting for your representation.

Unwavering, the president delivered a press conference, repeating his well-versed rhetoric about democracy, which has long lost all meaning coming from his mouth.

On June 3, it became official that a president can rewrite, maneuver and orchestrate the Constitution to abide by his will, preferences and benefits.

On June 3, the president’s bodyguards chased after a citizen and forcibly apprehended him for daring to exercise his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. 

There, unwavering, the president delivered a press conference, repeating his well-versed rhetoric about democracy, which has long lost all meaning coming from his mouth. Later, he would double-down on his “zero tolerance” stance, stating that the reaction had been “light” and that the protester was an “activist of Albin Kurti” — as though political activism, itself, was now crime enough for punishment. 

Party activist or not, the bypassing citizen had merely shouted “Thieves!” The president’s bodyguards jumped over a fence to the side of the Assembly. They grabbed and harrased him, dragging him to stationary police officers at the entrance of the Assembly, as another of the president’s officials tried to prevent the journalist from even recording the developments. The journalist managed to continue shooting only after insisting several times that he was with the press.

June 3, thus, may also be recorded as the day when freedom to scold “leaders” was handcuffed. A day when bodyguards assumed to possess legal authority to “arrest” a citizen.

On June 3, leading up to the Assembly’s voting session, a deputy said on the Assembly floor: “Two days ago, I declared that I would not be voting the Hoti government …. but last night, with the visit that I had to my family by the president and former prime minister Mr. Haradinaj, I have changed my mind, and my vote will be pro, my vote will be for these two people, pro the Hoti government.” 

This may have been a case of ignorance or of bravery — for the Constitution prohibits influencing deputies on their freedom of choice and freedom of vote. Ignorance, if he failed to know this; bravery, if, like a hostage, he was using it as means to expose the pressure he faced. Most probably, it was ignorance, as we have witnessed with the sense of entitlement much of our political class has shown time and time again. 

On June 3, that one vote, coerced in part by a man whose very constitutional role relies on him being politically neutral, ensured the final piece in the jigsaw of a re-captured state. A new coalition government that enjoyed support completely unprecedented in Kosovo’s short democratic history, replaced by a fragile coalition of those rejected by citizens in the polls, and a prime minister for whom citizens never had the opportunity to vote; sworn in in front of an empty Assembly.

Our dignity may have been stripped once again and we are tired. But this is not the time to give up.

On June 3, yet another confirmation of the obvious — that despite the hollow protestations of those attempting to subvert democracy by using the language of democracy, the Assembly is far from a representative body of the citizens. Rather, it is a room where, predominantly, men gather — similar to odas — to decide the fate of others.

Meanwhile, on June 3, Kosovo’s pandemic was declared ongoing — a political pandemic of continued capture, amidst another global pandemic affecting citizens’ health. 

But as with any virus-driven pandemic, this political pandemic requires questioning,  understanding and action. 

So, let June 3 — and all the days upcoming — not be the point we resigned ourselves to some inevitable future. 

But the day that sparked even more people ask themselves: To whom does the Constitution belong? And who does it represent? Is it the founding document of a state of citizens, to be interpreted for their wellbeing and to allow us all to exercise our will? Or is it there to serve the needs and demands of one man?

Our dignity may have been stripped once again and we are tired. But fundamental values and fragile rights are at risk. This is not the time to give up.

So when we look back at June 3, let history not record those fireworks as a celebration of a consecutive government, but as a day when democracy was violated. 

That does not mean that change is impossible, despite how big or small this setback feels in the moment. 

To borrow a phrase heard during the current civil rights protests in the U.S. and elsewhere: If there is no struggle, there is no progress.K

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.