AIM: start

THU, 29 NOV 2001 20:57:51 GMT

Results of General Elections and Their Consequences

AIM Mitrovica, November 26, 2001

Despite the partial boycott by the Kosovo Serbs, the international community is satisfied with their turnout. Gathered in Povratak (Return) coalition, they ensured 22 seats in the parliament for themselves, although in Kosovo itself a little over 40 per cent of them turned out for the elections, in Serbia over 60 per cent, and in Montenegro over 50 per cent of the citizens of Kosovo. There are several reasons why the turnout was not higher. Among them is certainly the short election campaign that lasted about ten days, because president of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica called the Serbs in Kosovo to take part in the elections in the last minute. On the other hand, although members of Povratak coalition tried to visit all the regions populated by the Serbs in Kosovo during the campaign, the impression is that they intentionally skirted some of them, which certainly reflected on the turnout of the voters. The typical example is the northern part of Mitrovica where there was no election campaign whatsoever, although it is generally known that this part of the city is the centre of the political scene and, as many believe, of political power of Kosovo Serbs. One of the candidates of Povratak coalition Nenad Radosavljevic, who is also the president of Leposavic municipality, admitted that Mitrovica was intentionally evaded for fear of unpredictable and undesirable acts that would have made a bad impression on the election campaign. This stand was not surprising, since the explosion that occurred during the pre-election gathering of the Serb coalition in Zvecani in the vicinity of Mitrovica indicated that something even worse could happen in Mitrovica. It seems that for these very reasons Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindjic decided not to travel to Mitrovica - in order to urge the people to vote in these elections. Another reason for the present result of the elections is that a part of Kosovo Serbs and their leaders did not agree with the assessment of the leadership in Belgrade that going to the polls was a "national interest". There have been a number of unpredictable situations, though, both on the very day of the elections and after.

The day of the elections, November 17, began with the appeal of the head of Coordination Centre for Kosovo Nebojsa Covic on the local radio to the Serbs in Mitrovica not to pay attention to the so-called anti-campaign, because certain measures would be taken against the people who had launched it, and to go to the polls. Immediately after that on that same radio, president of the Regional Committee in the Serb Ethnic Council for Northern Kosovo Milan Ivanovic, who advocated the boycott of the elections, answered: that the time of Slobodan Milosevic has passed when it was possible to punish those who think differently and that those who were against the elections were not afraid of him. Then Covic addressed the citizens again, and so on, and so forth, until 19.00 hours when the pre-election silence ended and the polling stations were locked.

Member of Coordination Centre for the relations with UNMIK and independent candidate of Povratak coalition Oliver Ivanovic also threatened that in the course of the following week already sharp measures would be taken against those who had organised the campaign against the elections. Serb National Council (SNV) remained firm in its stand that Kosovo Serbs had decided to boycott the elections because they did not wish "to give legitimacy to the Albanian state", and as a proof stressed the fact that in the northern part of Mitrovica only 7.8 per cent of the citizens voted.

Nevertheless, the threats started to materialise. On November 21 already, Nebojsa Covic demanded from President of Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica to abolish the Yugoslav Committee for Cooperation with UNMIK because "it is not principled to defend a state agency whose duty it should have been to do its best to ensure the success of Povratak coalition in Kosovo elections, which by the will of its president (Momcilo Trajkovic) decided not to do it". Covic also believes that "the behavior of certain state officials and the double bottom in decisions is inconsistency and it reminds of the time worse than the past, when the regime was saying one thing and doing something completely different". But President Kostunica opposed the initiative for the abolishment of the Federal Committee for Kosovo explaining that "no party or coalition has the authority to abolish state institutions".

Despite that, at the session of the Coordination Centre, president of the Federal Committee for Kosovo Momcilo Trajkovic and vice-president of Democratic Party of Serbia for Kosovo Marko Jaksic were criticised for their behavior during the election campaign. While Jaksic admitted that he carried on the campaign against elections and announced that he would submit his resignation to the membership in the Coordination Centre, Trajkovic defended himself by claiming that he neither carried on the campaign nor the anti-campaign and that he did not feel responsible.

On November 22, however, by a decision of the federal government Momcilo Trajkovic was discharged from the post of the president of the Yugoslav Committee for Cooperation with UNMIK and vice-president of the Coordination Centre, and the next day, by a decision of the republican government, Marko Jaksic was discharged from the membership of the Coordination Centre. The declarations of representatives of Povratak coalition on the occasion were identical. “They asked for it”.

Marko Jaksic, president of SNV, said at a meeting with journalists that with his declarations Nebojsa Covic contributed to new conflicts among Kosovo Serbs. "Mister Covic is trying to convince Serbian public that the north of Kosovo is reigned by crime and that Serb extremists operate in this region", explained Jaksic and then added: "I was discharged by the Republican government, but not the Federal, so Mister Covic will have to wait for it to do it in order to make my discharge legitimate". He stressed that the most important thing for the Serbs in Kosovo was that they had clear support of president of Yugoslavia Kostunica: "He says that regardless whether someone voted in the elections or not, it is essential for the Serbs to be united and act in the parliament and outside it in their political struggle for survival", Mr. Jaksic said.

Simultaneously with the confusion on the Serb political scene in Kosovo, Povratak coalition is also considering possible coalitions. It will rank third in the future parliament of Kosovo, which will after 15 years be multiethnic again and it already has a reserved post in the future government. It might even have a representative in the presidency of the assembly. But whom should it enter a coalition with? Judging by the still reserved statements, the most acceptable for the Serbs in Kosovo would be Democratic League of Kosovo headed by Ibrahim Rugova. Their stand is that a coalition with parties headed by Hashim Thaqi and Ramush Haradinaj is not possible, because they consider these two responsible for the destiny of numerous persons of Serb ethnic origin who have disappeared since 1998 and other what they believe to be “crimes”. The decision on a possible coalition still has not been reached and depends greatly on the offers they might get. Their requirements for a possible coalition is to be given have guarantees of security, freedom of movement and return of the citizens of Kosovo who are at the moment in Serbia. Povratak coalition stresses that the future assembly does not have the mandate to discuss the final status of Kosovo, and should Albanian deputies try anything of the kind, Povratak coalition claims that it will proclaim Serb autonomy and its own assembly.

Valentina CUKIC