AIM: start

SUN, 07 OCT 2001 22:55:39 GMT

Kosovo Election - Preparations and Doubts

AIM Pristina, September 29, 2001

In late September representatives of 26 political entities from Kosovo gathered around a lottery-wheel with 26 balls in it. The lottery, designed by the OSCE, was held to determine the order on the ballot for Kosovo general elections scheduled for November 17. This form of determining the order was considered to be most fair and impartial. Presentation of political entities on the ballot will start from number 10 and not from number one. According to the OSCE the aim is to avoid any misunderstandings, i.e. any symbolic advantage for any political entity.

This could deceive the electorate, still not used to democratic vote or rather, used to taking things according to the principle "first come, first to win".

This moment, which even the OSCE officials considered festive, marked a kind of line between registration process and election campaign. The registration process was once again glorified as exceptionally successful. The officials almost "jumped" with joy because members of the Serbian community had registered, thus opening the way for their participation in the general elections. Their, as well as the participation of other non-Albanian communities has increased the number of voters to over 1,1 million in contrast to last year's local elections when only 930 thousand voters were registered. Ambassador Everts said that 83 percent of the registered were Albanians and 17 percent from other communities.

Albanian political parties, as well as those which represent other non-Serbian communities in Kosovo, had no problem with getting certification for the general elections. Most of them observed the deadlines for meeting the criteria specified by the OSCE, whereas only a number of smaller parties were not certified due to "irregularities", i.e. falsified signatures. For these elections each political party had to collect one thousand of signatures of citizens with a right to vote, and parties of minority communities 500 signatures. On the other hand, this time both international, as well as local officials have chosen a much more "liberal" approach for the Serbian community. Ten promised reserved seats in the future Parliament of Kosovo, return of the displaced population, greater freedom of movement, extension of deadlines for the voter registration and issuing of certificates to political entities represented just one side of "benefits" granted to Serbian political representatives so as to convince them to take part in the elections. A day before the lottery for determining the order on the ballot, the OSCE issued a certificate to a civil initiative of Kosovo Serbs entitled "Coalition Return". The emergence of this coalition was quite in line with the behaviour of Serbian political representatives in an "on-again, off-again" style, which lasted for months. Although they responded to registration and got a certificate for their coalition, representatives of this community stated that "several fundamental preconditions have to be fulfilled before decision to participate in the elections can be made".

On the other hand, UNMIK Head Hans Haekkerup pointed out the importance of Serbs taking part in the elections, but also warned that no conditions would be accepted. When all is said and done, he said, it was not their choice. The Albanian representatives also sent an invitation to the Kosovo Serbs to come to the polls, but without posing any conditions. They also asked that ballots of Serbian candidates should not include persons who had been implicated in crimes against humanity in Kosovo. Administrator Haekkerup promised that no one who was on any list would be able to stand for election. In that context, he forwarded his "instructions" to the Central Election Commission (CEC) not to allow the nomination of persons mentioned in the Executive Order of the US President George Bush, which prohibited entry into USA and financial transactions to those listed and which included a number of public and political figures from Kosovo.

Daan Everts, Head of the OSCE Mission stated that these instructions were issued on the basis of the Administrator's authority in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as information he got from the American Government. In such a situation, said Mr.Everts, the Central Election Commission had no other choice but to accept and carry out the mentioned instructions.

On the other hand, several days before the beginning of electoral campaign, the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo, as the supreme body of joint administration, decided to disband the Kosovo Transitional Council (which now has a role of a mini-Parliament of sorts, but without legislative competences) at the beginning of next month when the electoral campaign officially begins. Also, all local "Ministers" will go on paid leave until the elections are over.

It was decided that the Interim Administrative Council should continue its work until the new Government of Kosovo is established. In that period the Interim Administrative Council would continue to function as the supreme authority so as to ensure some kind of continuity of the administration in Kosovo.

However, "waiting" for the establishment of that Government after the elections raises the question of its jurisdiction. The UN Mission has decided that it should have the Prime Minister and nine Ministries. But, it would not include three departments, which local political protagonists consider crucial: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Internal Affairs. According to UNMIK, these would fall within the UN Administrator's competences who would remain "the first man" in Kosovo irrespective of the fact that the future Parliament would also elect the President of Kosovo. UNMIK claims that it is already looking for new headquarters for its staff in order to vacate the premises for the future Government of Kosovo, but is also looking for the headquarters for the future President. Critics say that this is an attempt to create a "visual" impression that self-government institutions are being created in Kosovo while the external appearances will serve as a cover for the internal vacuum. According to them, local representatives would remain just a decoration for UNMIK, which will remain in charge.

Besnik BALA