AIM: start

SAT, 24 NOV 2001 00:47:42 GMT

Preliminary Results of General Elections in Kosovo

AIM Pristina, November 20, 2001

A highly balanced preliminary result that is the outcome of a very peaceful election campaign for the parliamentary elections in Kosovo does not seem to be characteristic for Kosovo that came out of the war just two and a half years ago and that has the experience of local elections held last year.

Head of OSCE mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Daan Everts was the most thrilled man in the press centre of his organisation when preliminary results were stated. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Ibrahim Rugova, known as a moderate politician who had just a day before demanded that the USA and the EU quickly recognise the independence of Kosovo, won "just" slightly over 46 per cent of the votes, instead of 58 per cent he had won last year or 70 per cent he had announced on the day after the voting. Less than planned was also won by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of former political representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Hashim Thaqi - 26 per cent of the votes. Povratak (Return) coalition, which gathers Kosovo Serbs, won about 11 per cent of the votes although about 52 per cent of registered Serbs had voted for it. On the other hand, the political power that ranked third in Kosovo now ranks fourth - the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) headed by one of the former commanders of KLA Ramush Haradinaj, although many prominent persons participated in his election campaign, former Kosovar leader Mahmut Bakalli among them, and it was believed that the known analyst Shkelzen Maliqi was also engaged in his election headquarters.

The voters ensured that two political organisations of non-Serb minorities - Vatan coalition of Bosniacs and Turkish Democratic Party - get one per cent of the votes along with the two Albanian parties of radical orientation - People's Movement of Kosovo and National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo, which is the only Albanian party that declared itself against independence, but in favour of the union with Albania.

What is even more interesting than the proclaimed results based on 92 per cent counted votes are the results of the Serb political organisation, Povratak coalition, which has become the third political force in the future parliament of Kosovo that will be constituted in the first half of December at the latest. With ten guaranteed seats, Povratak coalition, which was faced with powerful reaction and opposition of the radical part of the Serbs, will now have at least 20 deputies in the parliament which has the total of 120 seats. Local analysts have already concluded that this coalition will not be a force that will be able to block the process of decision-making, but that it certainly will be a respectable force that can "raise dust about anything it sees fit".

It seems that the party that "lost" these elections is the one that ranks first on the list according to the number of votes won. The deputies of LDK with 46 per cent of the votes they won will not be able to elect Ibrahim Rugova for the president of Kosovo. The Interim Constitutional Framework of Kosovo, the highest legal document passed during the rule of international administration, prescribes that two-thirds majority elect the president. If the president is not elected in two rounds of voting, the system of simple majority is applied, which means that a candidate needs 51 per cent of the votes in order to be elected, or at least 61 votes and the Democratic Alliance will not even have 50 deputies in the parliament. That is why the question that is increasingly heard is with whom LDK will form a coalition. One of the variants is that the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo will get the offer, and it could agree if promised a significant post in the future government, may be even the post of the prime minister, as it is speculated among journalists. But, that is hardly probable. The other possibility is that Mr. Rugova will get the votes of the deputies of Serb ethnic origin from Povratak coalition, which is also highly questionable, especially because it is well known that Rugova clearly advocates formal recognition of independence, which "de facto exists in Kosovo". In fact it is generally believed that in this phase and in the next few years, none of the political parties of Kosovo Albanians is ready for an open coalition with the Serbs. However, although a much smaller number, there are also those who think just the opposite...

Some commentators of political developments say that Daan Everts, head of OSCE mission, should be proud of having managed to find the formula that will force different political parties of Kosovo to cooperate, primarily the three biggest ones, setting as a challenge for them 20 Serb deputies whose presence will make the Albanian deputies forget their party affiliations. However, it is difficult to believe that Hashim Thaqi will give his vote to Ibrahim Rugova for president, at least not in the first two rounds of voting, and it is even less probable that Ibrahim Rugova could offer Hashim Thaqi - whose party will be represented by 25 deputies in the future parliament - the post of the prime minister of Kosovo.

Serb Povratak coalition has enough manoeuvring space left in the parliament of Kosovo and for the offer of support to Albanian parties which will in any case have to take the obligation and actually work on the improvement of the position of Serb minority community in Kosovo.

Representatives of Albanian political parties experience the 20 seats that the Serbs will have in Kosovo assembly as a punishment “pronounced” by the international community. For them it is also an injustice to their voters because at least 10 seats reserved for local Serbs could have gone to Albanian parties. According to their calculus, each of the biggest political parties in a proportional distribution could have had at least three to four deputies more.

In any case, head of UN mission in Kosovo Hans Hakkaerup evaluated the elections as a big success. “I am satisfied because these elections were organised very well and because the whole process has passed without violent incidents”, said Hakkaerup on Monday congratulating the citizens of Kosovo on the passed democracy test – as he called it.

KFOR commander Marcel Valentino characterized November 17 as a great victory. “November 17 was a great victory for Kosovo and I was impressed by peaceful course of the elections and voting”, said Valentino expressing readiness for cooperation with the elected leaders of Kosovo and UNMIK in the development of a safer ambience and progress in Kosovo.

Ambassador Daan Everts stressed: “After completion of the elections I qualified them as the elections of high quality and it seems to me that I was not hasty when I gave such an assessment because subsequent events confirmed my evaluation”...

However, the extraordinary praises pronounced by high officials of the Monitoring Mission of the Council of Europe or by their big friend William Walker, head of 1998/99 OSCE Verification Mission who said that the elections on November 17 were peaceful and more regular than the elections in America, did not make a very big impression on Albanian leaders in Kosovo. More than by the praises, Albanian leaders are confused by the fact that at least 20 Serb deputies will be present in the parliament of Kosovo that will raise numerous dilemmas for them about creation of coalitions, especially when the difficult job of inter-Albanian party reconciliation is concerned. Indeed, the Povratak coalition is the most satisfied of all with the past elections and their results. It has won more seats in the parliament than there are proportionally the members of the Serb community in Kosovo. Albanian political parties, however, are doubtful, or to put it more mildly, reserved concerning the results published by OSCE. The election headquarters of LDK came up with the datum that about 70 per cent of the voters in Kosovo had voted for it. PDK declared that it expected between 33 and 37 per cent of the votes, and AAK was the most reserved, although it is known that this political force is suspicious about the published results. Non-governmental organisations – Kosovo Action for Civilian Initiatives (KACI) and Kosovo Committee for the Protection of Human Rights – arrived at results very similar to the ones published by OSCE. Everybody is waiting for final results.

In the meantime, various questions are raised that will mostly remain without answers. Among them is one of the most sensitive ones: How is it possible that even in 100-per cent Albanian environments there were ballots in favour of Povratak coalition in ballot-boxes? Or, is it really true what UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said that in a village populated by the Serbs ballots were found with votes in favour of Albanian political parties? There are even speculations that there were ballots on which the citizens added and voted in favour of UNMIK, OSCE or KFOR, and that such votes were allotted either to Povratak coalition or some Albanian political party. One of representatives of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Bujar Dugolli thinks that OSCE has manipulated the votes from Serbia and Montenegro and that that is the reason why this political party has a lower percentage of votes. Politicians, on the other hand, hardly mention the low turnout of the voters. According to the data of OSCE only 65 per cent of the Albanians voted, and such a turnout also affects the results of the elections, which are organised according to the proportional system. Nevertheless, almost everybody is convinced that the results of the elections are not realistic. However, although dissatisfied, political protagonists will recognise election results. Daan Everts, Head of OSCE mission, appeals on them to do that in a special spot broadcast by public RTK. The Albanian politicians now have a big job lying ahead of them – how to get organised. Serb politicians are on the alert already, not to miss anything. The question of the final status of Kosovo is an important political and national issue – for the ones and the others...