OPINIONPOLITICS

Kosovar snap elections: Low turnout, no major changes and remaining problems

Pristina KosovoBy Hamdi Fırat Büyük

Kosovars are casting their votes to shape the 120-seat national parliament at 798 polling stations, including in the Serb dominated region of Mitrovica. Snap elections were called for in May after the parliament was dissolved because of political disputes that led to several deadlocks. 

No major changes have been forecast in the electoral makeup as proven by preliminary results. According to preliminary figures of the Central Election Commission, which has so far counted 47.85 percent of all ballots cast, the PDK leads with 29.97 percent of the vote followed by the LDK with 26.18 percent, the Vetevendosje Movement with 12.15 percent, Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, with 10.33 percent and NISMA with 6.23 percent.

In Kosovo’s last general elections held in 2010, the PDK won 32.11 percent of the vote, the LDK 24.69 percent, Vetevendosje 12.69 percent, AAK 11.04 percent and Behgjet Paccolli’s New Kosovo Alliance took 7.29 percent.

These results may show only half of the votes but there is no major change visible in their distribution, except in Serb dominated regions. 

Low turnout

As was expected, voter turnout was low in the country. According to the Central Election Commission, 43.20 percent of more than 1,700,000 eligible voters had cast their ballots.

The highest turnout was registered in the capital city of Pristina, where 51.73 percent of those eligible voted. Turnout was far lower in Serb-dominated areas. In North Mitrovica we saw a 38.83 percent turnout, in Leposavic 37.44 percent, in Zubin Potok 41.02 percent and in Zvecan only 27.36 voted.

Kosovar Serbs have been deciding not to attend the elections for a long time. Before the elections, news on the Serb’s boycott of the election was widespread. Nonetheless, in spite of the low registered turnout, snap election were held in Mitrovica. 

Elections held in Serb dominated regions

The last local elections in early 2014 were boycotted by Kosovar Serbs. Yet, after talks in Brussels between Serbia and Kosovo under the auspices of the EU, Kosovar Serbs participated in the second round of elections within the list of “Srpska List” set by Serbian Government. 

This time, however, there was no need for Serbia’s influence because Kosovar Serbs are aware of the parliamentary elections’ importance. Now, being a time of the run-up to constitutional changes and the peak of Serbia-EU relations, Kosovar Serbs know that they must be represented in parliament in order to expand their rights and autonomy in the country.

No major irregularities

Kosovo’s previous elections have always been eventful with the presence of irregularities or violence based on political disputes between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, especially in northern Kosovo.

According to the OSCE, no major irregularities were reported but NGOs said their observers had witnessed thousands of cases of family voting and other cases of voter bribing.

The State Prosecutor’s Office said it was investigating several cases involving more than ten people who allegedly bribed voters in the Mitrovica and Lipjan regions.

Aiming to ensure that no corrupt acts or crimes took place during the voting, around 100 prosecutors were on duty across the country alongside 27,733 election observers.

Minority parties in the elections

A total of 1,235 candidates from 30 political movements are running in the elections, including five Serbian, six Bosnian and two Turkish parties.

The Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party has 50 candidates while the Turkish Justice Party of Kosovo entered the elections with 24 candidates.

There is a threshold of five percent that must be overcome in order for political parties in Kosovo to take seats in the parliament. Ten seats are allocated for the Serbian minority and other minority groups.

Turks gained three seats in previous elections, two from constitutionally reserved seats and one from its political alignment with an Albanian Party. In this election, surprisingly Turks again gain two seats that are constitutionally reserved plus an extra seat within two political party. The Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party which received 1.1% of votes will represented in the parliament with three seats. However, Turkish Justice Party of Kosovo that received 0,6% of total votes will not be represented in the parliament. 

Moreover, Turks gain these three seats but if two major Turkish Party united they could gain more seat than current number. We have seen the failure of Turkish political parties in the local elections, even in Turkish dominated towns and cities as Turkish mayoral candidates lost due to the dividing of votes. 

With a rudimentary reading of the elections, all experts says that the Turkish community should be united in the elections and try to maximize their seats by reaching beyond the political interests of individuals to a level of national interest. The Turkish community should have set alignments with other major parties (whether Bosniak or Albanian depending on the electoral region’s demographics) to increase their share of seats in the parliament. Nonetheless, Turkish political parties and leaders have been plagued with infighting.

Elections’ effect on Kosovar Serbs and Kosovo-Serbia relations

The early elections are considered to be crucial for the future integration of the Serbian northern part of the country, while the outcome will also be an important milestone on Kosovo’s European path.

The EU, which has been brokering talks on normalizing relations between Pristina and Belgrade, said it was looking forward to continuing its close “engagement and commitment to Kosovo with the new government after the elections”. The outcome of the election is the most uncertain one since Kosovo declared independence in 2008. 

Hashim Thaci, the outgoing prime minister and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, has ruled for more than 6 years, but his government is blamed for corruption, poverty and graft. While casting his vote, Thaci said it was a “historic day” for the country. Thaci’s main challenge comes from Isa Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK.

“As by tomorrow morning we will continue to fulfil our duties. As by tomorrow we will start to implement our ‘New Mission'”, Hashim Thaci said in his speech.

The new parliament has great responsibilities

Following the snap elections, major issues to be handled by the new cabinet and parliament will include the constitutional change, EU accession process, Kosovar Serb issue, normalisation of relations with Serbia, battle against organized crime and the newly established Kosovar Armed Forces.

The snap elections were held because of the deadlocks in parliament and according to the preliminary results, distribution of the seats seems not to have changed. Therefore, deadlocks in the new parliament may occur once again, but depending on the new coalitions, alignments and political compromises, the new cabinet’s success in the country’s debates will be altered.

Source: JTW

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