Lately | Politics

Kosovo heading to early elections

By - 22.08.2019

Vote to be held within 45 days.

Kosovo is heading to early elections after elected deputies voted to dissolve the Assembly.

The Assembly Presidency’s motion to dissolve the Assembly, which received 89 votes in favor and 1 against (with 2 abstensions), had been widely expected to pass following the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj last month. 

Publicly, almost all political parties in the Assembly had stated that elections were necessary and the only way forward and the outgoing prime minister had stated in his resignation speech that “we need to give the word to the sovereignty.”

The president, Hashim Thaçi, must now issue a decree formally dissolving the Assembly and must call elections within 45 days.

Beforehand the Assembly dissolution was agreed, deputies approved the latest IPA financial assistance agreement, which will bring 100 million euros in EU investments to Kosovo for various projects.    

Haradinaj resigned on July 19, after being summoned by the Specialist Chambers to be interviewed as a suspect for war crimes. Having held the prime minister’s post for a little under two years, he said that he could not allow Kosovo to be represented on the suspects’ bench. 

However, after finishing his interview with Specialist Prosecutors, he continued to call government meetings, to attend inauguration ceremonies, and to lobby for projects that he hadn’t managed to finish — or had never even started — during his time as prime minister.  

His conduct has incited criticism and was interpreted by some political analysts as a violation of the Constitution by the outgoing prime minister. Haradinaj has asked the Constitutional Court for an interpretation of what should happen in the circumstances of a prime minister’s resignation to avoid an institutional vacuum, but the court’s decision is still awaited.      

In some quarters, his resignation was seen as a cynical political move to mobilize votes.  

Preparations already underway

Ever since Haradinaj’s resignation the political scene has been characterized by “early campaigns” and talk of “pre-election coalitions.”    

In recent months, the two biggest opposition parties, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Vetëvendosje, started to negotiate with one another to begin feeling out their respective positions. They had initially started to meet to try to find a way of toppling Haradinaj, and to reach an agreement so that “in the future” they could govern the country together.       

Although senior officials from both parties — including the two leaders Isa Mustafa and Albin Kurti — had stated that they were in favor of reaching such an agreement, talks have intensified since LDK’s internal elections earlier this month in which Mustafa was reelected as leader.

Despite the fact that the two parties considered one another as the only alternative for forming a coalition, to date no agreement has been reached, although on Wednesday (July 21) they announced that they had formed “working groups” to take their conversations further. 

Outgoing Prime Minister Haradinaj has been quicker, forming a pre-election coalition with Kurti’s former party colleagues, the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSD). On July 19, Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and PSD reached an official agreement to enter the upcoming election race together, with Haradinaj as the nominee for prime minister.  

In a TV debate following the coalition announcement, Haradinaj described it as an act of “political maturity” due to Kosovo’s position in the final phase of the dialogue with Serbia while PSD leader Shpend Ahmeti said it was necessary to set aside “moralist” approaches.    

Ahmeti also lauded Ramush Haradinaj resistance against the international pressure to remove the 100% tax on products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as his willingness to sacrifice himself so as to remove responsibility from the state of Kosovo in the Specialist Chambers, saying that this should be appreciated by everyone. 

Returning the compliments, Haradinaj said that he appreciates the cooperation that his party has had with Ahmeti during much of his time as mayor of Prishtina, as well as PSD’s willingness last year to vote in favor of transforming the Kosovo Security Force into an army.  

The coalition between the two parties was opposed by other political parties and analysts, and was mocked in social media, particularly by PSD’s former colleagues in Vetëvendosje who have long accused the breakaway group of propping up the government. There also appears to be an ideological divide between the two parties — with AAK describing themselves as center-right, and PSD as social democrats — while in the past figures within PSD (who were at the time members of Vetëvendosje) have made strong accusations against Haradinaj’s party, labelling it a party of tributes and organized crime.      

The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has largely remained below the radar. Kadri Veseli’s party has not ruled out coalitions with anyone, although most political parties are reserved about joining a coalition with the party that has been in power since 2007, including current coalition partners the Social Democratic Initiative NISMA, which has said it wants to be with a party of action not talk.  

PDK has announced that its campaign will focus around “the New Decade,” in which it will focus on finally tackling corruption and nepotism, with Veseli making it known that PDK would not be interested in giving up the prime minister’s post to any potential coalition partner.  

Meanwhile, the other main coalition partner from the outgoing government, the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), was dealt a blow this week as its only municipal mayor, Mitrovica’s Agim Bahtiri, announced that he was leaving the party to join Vetëvendosje. K

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.