Perspectives | Democracy

Kosovo politics is entering a Machiavellian era

By - 17.05.2017

New coalition between PDK, AAK and NISMA can only increase apathy among the electorate.

Last night (May 16), an hour before the deadline to register pre-election coalitions, a shockwave hit Kosovo politics. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and the Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA) signed a pre-election agreement, registering Ramush Haradinaj as the nominated candidate for prime minister from the coalition block of three parties — all of whom have their foundations in the Kosovo Liberation Army.

In the previous parliamentary term, the three parties had been fierce rivals as PDK governed alongside coalition partner the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), whilst NISMA and AAK formed a united opposition block.

Two years have passed of long standing political crisis, in part caused by a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro that was signed by then foreign minister, and former PDK leader, Hashim Thaci. The PDK-LDK coalition insisted that this agreement should be ratified in the Assembly, while the opposition, led by AAK’s Ramush Haradinaj, and including NISMA, strongly opposed the agreement, accusing PDK of treason, and of relinquishing more than 8,000 hectares of Kosovar land to Montenegro.

Less than a week ago, Haradinaj seemed disinclined towards coalitions, stating that there are “red lines” preventing entrance into any alliance with either LDK or PDK. However, it now seems as though the carrot of becoming the candidate for prime minister has changed his mind and that these red lines have vanished.

There has been speculation that a coalition between the three parties could be possible for some time, with the former head of PDK’s parliamentary group Adem Grabovci and NISMA founder Jakup Krasniqi photographed holding a meeting together in Durres as early as April 23. Soon after, on May 4, NISMA initiated a motion of no confidence in the government. Once the government fell, rumors of a coalition resurfaced.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court after the 2014 election created a precedent that only the party or coalition that receives the most votes in the election has the right to form the government; creating a situation where pre-election coalitions become advantageous, as it increases the chance of first place. Many attribute the decision to announce the new coalition so close to the deadline as being taken to prevent a similar deal between rival parties LDK and Vetevendosje.

It is a move that will only enlarge and deepen mistrust in Kosovar politics, not only among the political spectrum, but in society at large, particularly among young people.

However, the decision from both AAK and NISMA to form a pre-election coalition with PDK still comes as a shock. Leaders of both parties, in the last six months, have accused PDK of being both traitors and part of a government that has led the country to become a failed state. It is hard to see the move as anything other than calculated, solely to serve self interests and attain a share of power.

It is not the first time that Kosovo’s political culture has faced this kind of political turnaround. In 2014, LDK reneged on a deal with its fellow opposition parties and signed a coalition with PDK to govern, after campaigning for a long time against any coalition with PDK. However, in the end they gave up these ideals in “the interest of the country,” a cliched slogan that they hoped would vanish all accusations.

Last night’s maneuvers in Kosovo politics could be yet another valuable addition to the famous work of Niccolo Machiavelli, “The Prince”— where Machiavelli tells the story of the unscrupulous and immoral behavior of politicians desperate to reach power. It is a move that will only enlarge and deepen mistrust in Kosovar politics, not only amongst the political spectrum, but in society at large, particularly amongst young people.

It will help add to the loss of the belief and hope that voting can change something in Kosovo; that political activity can change things on the ground. Traditional parties are now solely operating through clientelism, corruption and nepotism, while paying no attention to their party program or the principles with which they espouse to govern.

At the 2014 elections, less than 43 percent of registered voters visited the ballot box. Will this year see a higher turnout? It seems hard to be optimistic, when politicians without principles one week declare their opponent as corrupt, and responsible for the failure and isolation of the country, and then just days later sign an alliance “to bring hope.”K

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.