AIM: start

THU, 29 NOV 2001 21:29:55 GMT

Forced Coalitions in the Wake of Elections

AIM Pristina, November 25, 2001

Fourteen political groups will have representatives in the first internationally recognized Kosovo assembly. According to final results of elections held on Nov. 17, however, no single political group will be able to rule alone. If the international community has "achieved a great success" in Kosovo, then a ruling coalition is a must. Four political groups won the greatest number of votes: the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (45.65 percent), the Democratic Party of Kosovo (25.75 percent), the Return coalition (11.34 percent), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (7.80 percent). Other groups and parties participating in the election won only one seat in direct voting, but minority parties have seats reserved for them. Thus the Return coalition, representing Kosovo Serbs, will have a total of 22 seats with the 10 reserved for them, and other ethnic minorities (Bosniaks, Ashkalis, Turks, Roma, Egyptians, Goranians) will have 13 representatives. The remaining seats will be split among the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (47 seats), the Democratic Party of Kosovo (26 seats), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (8 seats), with the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo, the People's Movement of Kosovo, the Party of Rights, and the Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo one seat each. The assembly is supposed to hold its first session on Dec. 10. The organizers of the elections have described the process as "magnificent," and the balloting itself was termed very good by international representatives, who said only minor irregularities had been registered. OSCE Mission head Daan Everts said only 1.93 percent of the total 803,796 ballots were invalid. The end of the election was marked by the signature Hans Haekkerup placed on a paper verifying the results. But immediately thereafter the other, more difficult phase began: implementing the results.

Dec. 10 will mark the beginning of the Kosovo Assembly; it will first have to elect a speaker and a seven-member presidency. After that, the assembly will elect Kosovo's president, who will appoint a premier-designate to form a nine-member cabinet. Two portfolios will be controlled by minority representatives, in accordance with the Kosovo Constitutional Framework. The remaining seven ministries and the posts of assembly speaker and premier will be decided by Kosovo's still unpredictable political climate.

Since no party garnered enough votes to rule alone, coalitions are unavoidable, and the relatively balanced results have created conditions wherein many combinations are possible. Although all the parties have said that they will await the announcement of final results, marking an end to the election process, before coming forth with their coalition plans, negotiations hidden from the public eye seem to have already begun. Of course, the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo, which won the most seats, but not enough to form a cabinet on its own, will have the main say. Its first dilemma is finding a coalition partner: either the Serb Return coalition which, according to analysts, would be political suicide because its supporters would disapprove of it (although there are indications that Return would accept a coalition under certain conditions), or to warm up its relations with the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. It seems the former combination was discarded even before it was discussed, although certain diplomatic circles in Kosovo say that such a coalition would be an opportunity to attain a "multi-ethnic Kosovo and the beginning of the reconciliation process." It appears, however, that international "advisors" have finally abandoned such a scenario, given the not so distant bitter past, particularly since the true magnitude of the tragic events from the war is still unknown.

After all, according to Kosovo's political parties, the Serbs have 22 seats in the assembly and one in the cabinet, and it is likely that they will have another one in the assembly's presidency. In one way or another, they are part of the government coalition. And instead of that combination, international representatives began searching for another: first they asked the parties to accept the elections results (though no one was willing to question them, despite much grumbling and suspicion), and then to request the forming of a broad coalition cabinet. Democratic Alliance leader Ibrahim Rugova invited Alliance for the Future of Kosovo president Ramush Haradinaj for a "discrete dinner" to "discuss Kosovo's political future." Haradinaj said he would accept if Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci were also present. It is claimed that the two of them had made a deal earlier they would not independently accept any coalitions, and would, instead, insist on a broad coalition cabinet. It seems, however, that Rugova's and Thaci's parties will have a hard time reconciling their differences created during the war in Kosovo. The Democratic Party of Kosovo, whose leaders were at the helm of the Kosovo Liberation Army, has never forgiven Ibrahim Rugova his anti-war position and the words he used at the beginning of the war to describe KLA fighters. Rugova, on his part, has never been close to KLA leaders, because of their criticism of him for meeting with former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, indicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal for war crimes and genocide. The ice in their relations is unlikely to melt, but this time around the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo appears cornered. It can no longer count on its allies because one of them obtained only one seat in the assembly and the others failed in obtaining even 0.5 percent of the vote. Other non-Serb minorities do not have enough seats to help Rugova, even if willing to do so which they are not. The Vatan coalition, led by Numan Balic, has four seats in the assembly, but it is closer to Hashim Thaci -- on the first morning following the elections they had coffee together, to confirm a friendship dating from the war. The Democratic Party of Kosovo, this time obviously pleased not that much with the number of votes as much as with "our stable electorate," claims it is "open" to all sorts of negotiations and options, but demands that Rugova abandon the idea of becoming Kosovo's president. This is, apparently, very painful for the leader of the Democratic Alliance, who has been awaiting international recognition of his presidency for 11 years. Even if willing to yield, he would not do so in front of his main rival, Thaci. This is why sources in the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, led by Haradinaj, claim that Rugova's party is willing to offer it major concessions. The vice president of Haradinaj's party even said it had been offered the posts of Kosovo president and premier in exchange for accepting a coalition. The Democratic Alliance seems to be investing its efforts into avoiding any combinations with Thaci's party, which, on its part, is gleeful about the possibility of cornering its chief rival. According to the most far fetched rumors, Rugova has allegedly consented to "abandoning the candidacy for president, in order to facilitate the creation of a broad coalition..." Analysts, however, are sceptical for two reasons: first of all, Rugova seems unwilling to abandon his dream, and, second, it would be a great setback for his party that could prompt internal division and clashes.

It seems that Rugova's rivals are convinced that victory in the Nov. 17 elections, regardless of the numbers of obtained seats, is almost negligible and have decided to use this period to change political relations in Kosovo. The weakening of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo would automatically strengthen them, and upcoming local elections that are to be held in a year's time could pave the way for their victory in the next general elections, three years later.

Arbnora Berisha