Last month’s local election results showed that Gjilan’s current mayor, Lutfi Haziri of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), was the most voted for candidate in the first round, winning 43.5 percent of the vote. However, the result was not enough for him to secure another mandate, meaning that the race for Gjilan will go to a runoff on Nov. 19, pitting Haziri against Vetevendosje’s Sami Kurteshi, who won 27.8 percent of the vote.
This is the best result achieved in Gjilan by Kurteshi’s party, who have finally managed to put an end to the traditional two-horse race between PDK and LDK in the municipality. Vetevendosje’s support in Gjilan was notable at the June 11 general elections, leading to the expectation that the battle for the municipality would be fought between the current mayor and Kurteshi.
During the election campaign, the debate was oriented towards capital investments, issues surrounding sewage, the politicization of the health care and education system, and the main road that connects Prishtina to Gjilan, which is considered an important investment for the region.
K2.0 has summarized a few issues that the municipality has faced, as well as the promises made by the two candidates to residents of the municipality of Gjilan — mainly related to infrastructure, the environment, healthcare and education.
Infrastructure and the environment
Throughout his campaign, former Deputy Prime Minister Haziri has promised that if he is to secure another mandate, he will prioritize investments in infrastructure, so as to renew the “‘70s era infrastructure” that currently exists in Gjilan.
The incumbent mayor has continuously mentioned projects which he implemented in the last mandate, including setting a budget for the roads that lead in and out of Gjilan. He has said that construction has started on some of these roads, whereas for others it will start ‘shortly,’ offering no concrete timelines.
However, he has given a definitive timeframe for the reconstruction of damaged roads in the inner part of the city. With a budget of 26 million euros, he claims he will expand and reconstruct all damaged roads, as well as pave sidewalks in the city and its surrounding villages, within the first three years of his potential next mandate.
On the other hand, former Ombudsperson Sami Kurteshi said that he cannot make promises about investing in road infrastructure before doing an analysis of the city’s road network, which would give him specific figures. He has promised to make decisions about road interventions in cooperation with citizens through public meetings.
Kurteshi has stated that the only thing he can say without conducting a preceding analysis is that any infrastructure built during his potential mandate will be constructed in ways that provide access to disabled people, and that quality will be prioritized. He has also said that he will fix the areas of the city which are frequently blocked with traffic, limit the number of cars in the city center and invest in parking lots in both the city center and suburbs.
According to Kurteshi, connecting all settlements through regulated roads is a challenge, but he has promised to achieve it regardless. He has also highlighted the importance of road maintenance, pledging to maintain the municipality’s roads 365 days a year. Kurteshi has also promised to improve road traffic signs and the public lighting system both in the city and its surrounding settlements.
Kurteshi has also highlighted the critical situation regarding the environment in the Gjilan municipality, especially the stench in the city center. For this reason, he has promised to find a solution for the sewage issue, and a way to prevent sewage from streaming into the city’s rivers, within his next potential mandate.
He has pledged to build a sewage collection plant and make improvements that prevents sewage from streaming down the Mirusha and Stanishor rivers. Kurteshi has also pledged to expand the sewage system in the inner parts of the city, so as to protect rivers, forests, hills and agricultural lands from being affected by sewage.
Regarding the water supply issue, he has said that it is necessary to identify issues and the needs of citizens, as well as to evaluate the rate of drinking water that is wasted through the current water supply system. He aims to expand the drinking water infrastructure to include the whole municipality of Gjilan.
Current mayor Haziri has highlighted that he has already initiated a few projects for dealing with the sewage issue, adding that he has secured funding, and that the overall cost is 12 million euros. He also claims to have secured 4 million euros from the government for improving river beds. Haziri has also said he will build a sewage collection plant, but conceded that he is yet to secure funding for this project.
Education and healthcare
Despite the fact that the election campaign in this municipality was focused on infrastructure investments, Haziri has also declared education as a priority and has mentioned that he will invest in the high school campus and its surrounding area.
Haziri has also promised to build: a school in the village of Shurdhan, (co-financed with the European Commission), a Music and Arts School, multiple physical education halls, a school in Ponesh and a kindergarten in Dardania neighborhood. He has also promised to equip schools.
On the other hand, Sami Kurteshi has criticized the current government in Gjilan for degrading the education sector. His main point, which goes for all fields, is “to empower the role of citizens in public decision-making.”
The same applies to the education sector, where he deems cooperation with the people to be crucial. He promises to compile a plan for evaluating needs through public discussions with the community. According to Kurteshi, this method will be used for building kindergartens and pre-school institutions.
Besides depoliticizing the education system, Kurteshi promises to provide free meals to pupils of grades one to four as well as regular medical services in schools with the aim of preventing illnesses, and raising awareness about health among pupils.
Kurteshi also wants to invest in the basic infrastructure of schools, as he believes that this would create new spaces, and as a result would enable him to remove the third shift from the school schedule, as well as to return the policy of having 45-minute lessons. He has also pledged to provide additional material for schools, equip them with libraries and reading corners, and support teachers for continuous professional development.
Investment in healthcare
Regarding healthcare, Haziri has promised to complete the Main Family Medicine Center as a solution for many of the problems that Gjilan’s residents face in this sector. Construction on the Center started in late 2016 and is yet to be finished. It has a total cost of 1.4 million euros and is financed by Kosovo’s government. According to Haziri, this Center will facilitate the work of medical staff and offer better services to patients.
Moreover, during different debates in the media, he has claimed that he has invested in all of the currently existing Family Medicine Centers (FMCs), both in the city center and in the surrounding villages. Among other things, he claims to have increased the number of medical staff, as well as provided medical services on the ground and medical visits in schools. Haziri also promised to build a new emergency center in the village of Llashtice.
On the other hand, despite being critical of the way the healthcare system has worked in Gjilan, Kurteshi has only one paragraph that deals with the topic. He promises to revitalize FMCs and to build new centers in locations which are deemed to require them, something that he would decide after conducting an analysis.
According to Kurteshi, managing these centers is important, and he pledges to send medical staff to all centers, based on demand. He also promises to form a mobile medical team which would offer services on the ground, especially for disabled people.
In the 17 years after the end of the war, PDK governed Gjilan for only one mandate, with all other mandates governed by LDK. In October’s first round of this year’s local elections, Gjilan’s residents decided for the first time to give the second spot in the runoff to a non-PDK member, pitting Sami Kurteshi against LDK’s candidate. He becomes the first candidate of an opposition party to secure a place in the run off.K