Lately | Local Elections 2017

Political shakeup in mayoral elections

By - 23.10.2017

Most major cities heading to second round.

Early indication from yesterday’s (Sunday, Oct. 22) local elections are that there have been political shifts in different cities and municipalities throughout Kosovo. While the provisional results have yet to be formally announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC), the majority of votes have now been counted.

Having slipped to third place in the national poll in June, LDK in particular seems to have performed well, holding onto four existing mayorships (Peja, Lipjan, Viti and Fushe Kosove) without the need for a second round, while looking set to be in the runoff in 10 other municipalities.

Vetevendosje has made big improvements since the 2013 ballot, but appears to have been unable to match its impressive results from June’s general elections, when it sent shockwaves through the political establishment by becoming the largest single party in the Kosovo Assembly. Having only held a single mayorship going into these elections — that of Prishtina — and never having been in a runoff elsewhere, Vetevendosje has again not won any mayorships outright this time around, but is set to be involved in six runoffs, including in the capital.

Besides Prishtina and Kamenica, where it has received the most votes, Vetevendosje will challenge PDK in Prizren and Kacanik, and LDK in Gjilan and Podujeva.

PDK has secured one mayorship outright, in its traditional stronghold in Drenas, and has come first in the big cities of Prizren, Ferizaj and Mitrovica, all of which will have second round. PDK will also enter the runoff in Rahovec, Kacanik, Vushtrri, Shtime, Klina, Malisheva and Dragash.

AAK has held onto the mayorships in its traditional strongholds of Decan and Junik, and will contest runoffs in Gjakova, Istog, Obilic, Klina, Suhareka and Rahovec. Nisma came first in Malisheva, where it will enter a runoff with PDK, while AKR will contest the runoff in Mitrovica.

Belgrade-backed Lista Srpska has won outright in nine of the 10 Serb majority municipalities, with only Klokot heading to a runoff. Meanwhile Kosova Demokratik Turk Partisi candidate Abdulhadi Krasnic won the small Turkish majority municipality of Mamusha outright.

Two independent candidates also won in the first round, Bekim Jashari — the nephew of Adem Jashari, who is widely held up as KLA war hero — became the mayor of Skenderaj with 85 percent of the vote after PDK, NISMA and AAK chose not to contest the seat, and Han i Elezit’s incumbent Rufki Suma held onto his position. In Shtime, another independent candidate, Fatmir Rashiti, will face PDK’s Naim Ismajli in a runoff.

All runoffs will be held on Sunday, November 19 between the top two candidates in each municipality in which no candidate managed to secure at least 50 percent of the vote.

Battle for the big cities

Besides Peja, which looks to have been won in the first round by LDK’s incumbent Gazmend Muhaxheri, the six other major cities are set to go to a runoff, including the capital, Prishtina.

With 91 percent of the votes having been counted in the capital, Vetevendosje’s Shpend Ahmeti (43 percent), who defeated LDK’s Isa Mustafa in a runoff last time after coming second in the first round, is set to win the popular vote. Ahmeti’s team had expressed confidence that he could win in the first round this year, but he will need to defeat LDK’s Arban Abrashi (36 percent) in a runoff if he is to retain his seat.

There will likely be no need for Peja’s citizens to return to polling stations next month, with the most spectacular victory out of the biggest cities emerging here. With all votes counted, incumbent Gazmend Muhaxheri (50 percent) appears to have achieved a first round victory over AAK’s Fatmir Gashi (32 percent), having needed a runoff to defeat Gashi’s colleague — and then incumbent — Ali Berisha in 2013.

There was a close race in Prizren, where PDK’s Shaqir Totaj (30 percent) and Vetevendosje’s Mytaher Haskuka (22 percent) look set to enter the second round, based on 93 percent of the votes. The votes of LDK’s Hatim Baxhaku (19 percent) are likely to prove decisive in the runoff in Kosovo’s second largest city, which has traditionally been a battle between PDK and LDK.

Gjilan is another city where a traditional PDK-LDK rivalry has been broken. With 87 percent of the votes counted, LDK’s incumbent Lutfi Haziri (currently on 43 percent) is set to come first but he will be joined in the runoff by Vetevendosje’s Sami Kurteshi (27 percent), while PDK’s Zenun Pajaziti (18 percent) has been pushed into third place. Kurteshi’s performance marks a significant improvement on that of his brother, Ismajl, who in 2013 came third here with just 14 percent of the votes.

Ferizaj, where 99 percent of votes have been counted, will see a repeat of the 2013 runoff between PDK’s Agim Aliu (39 percent) and LDK’s incumbent Muharrem Sfarqa (30 percent). Aliu also won the first round in 2013 before being beaten in the runoff.

Two cities in which runoffs will include candidates from outside of the largest three parties are Gjakova (where 95 percent of votes have been counted) and Mitrovica (100 percent of votes counted).

Alternativa’s leader and Gjakova’s incumbent mayor Mimoza Kusari (31 percent), will face a battle to retain the seat that she won in 2013 as part of AKR in a runoff against AAK’s Pal Lekaj, with Lekaj’s party colleague Ardian Gjini (40 percent) set to win the popular vote.

Meanwhile in Mitrovica, AKR’s incumbent Agim Bahtiri (27 percent) will face PDK’s Valdete Idrizi (29 percent), in what looks to be another tight race.

At this stage it seems that turnout was marginally down on 2013’s local elections, with 44 percent of citizens having voted, as opposed to 46 percent last time around.

The counting of ballots for municipal deputy positions is expected to be finalized in the following days.K

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.