AIM: start

SAT, 15 DEC 2001 19:07:03 GMT

Struggle for President Who will Reside in the Museum

AIM Pristina, December 12, 2001

Downtown Pristina what immediately catches attention is the building with a yellow front and a marble staircase, surrounded by a metal fence and a hoisted flag of the EU on it. Numerous vehicles parked on the building grounds and guards conceal (unintentionally) from the eyes a forgotten sign saying "The Museum of Kosovo". Once a place where valuable exhibits were kept and exhibited (that were transported somewhere to Serbia after the war), this building has served as the office of the EU, and from now on it will be the residence of the president of Kosovo. It seems that that is the reason it has become a desirable place for political leaders who wanted the post for themselves. But the distribution of leading posts after November 17 general elections in Kosovo has turned into an apple of discord among ethnic Albanian political parties that had won the biggest number of votes in these elections.

The constitutional framework passed by OUN Mission in May prescribes a parliament of 120 deputies who elect the chairman and the presidency of the parliament, the president of Kosovo and the government of nine ministries and the prime minister. Although with very limited jurisdiction, local representatives now have the possibility to become part of legislative and executive power. The results of the voting were such that they did not enable any single political party to rule on its own, so debates about creation of government coalitions began immediately after the proclamation of the results. The Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (LDK) which has ensured 47 seats in the assembly was expected to initiate talks with other political parties and state its "offer" for joint rule (the phrase that is currently the most repeated in Kosovo) everybody had pledged to. The rivals of LDK even thought that a convenient moment has come for them to force this party "to knock at their doors". However, the leader of this party Ibrahim Rugova seems to have decided to bet on a different card: buying time. His proven "patience" in the past 12 years was greater than that of his rivals who could not wait that long. Warning about the fact that the representatives of the Serb community in Kosovo were the power that ranks third in the parliament, in other words, the power that couldn’t be ignored, they demanded that Albanian political parties create a broad government coalition. "The role of the mediator" was assumed by a party that has only eight deputies in the assembly, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). Its leader Ramush Haradinaj invited two other leaders, Ibrahim Rugova, president of LDK, and Hashim Thaci, president of Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) to a meeting. But that did not happen.

Dr. Rugova waited to invite first Mr. Haradinaj and offer him a coalition. But the latter had already reached an agreement with Mr. Thaci that neither of them would enter a two-member coalition, but establish the rule of all three political parties. After the meeting, Mr. Rugova showed signs of "softening" and invited the leader of PDK Hashim Thaci to private talks at the seat of OUN Mission in Pristina. This meeting after which both leaders declared that they had "agreed to continue talks" and their smiles in the presence of journalists created the impression that "ice" between pacifist Rugova and former political director of Kosovo Liberation Army Hashim Thaci was thawing. Their mutual intolerance had reached its peak during the war and immediately afterwards, because of the fact that members of KLA have never forgiven Mr. Rugova for his suspicious attitude towards them and the latter has never forgiven them for the condemnation after his "meeting" with Milosevic during NATO bombing.

This meeting was the first step before the threelateral meeting in American Office in Pristina hosted by Ambassador John Menzies. Together with diplomatic representatives of Great Britain Andrew Lloyd and Germany Michael Schmunck he played an active role in the strife to reach an agreement among Albanian political parties. They kept demanding a government made up of all political parties represented in the parliament, while Albanian leaders claimed that "from the ethnic point of view" it was that already, since two out of nine ministries would be headed by ethnic minorities which have representatives in the presidency of the parliament. On the other hand, a possible coalition with Serb deputies was out of the question from the very start. Less than three years after the bloody war it was too early to talk about it, Albanian political representatives explained.

Even their mutual talks seem to have been doomed. Even before they had actually begun, demands and conditions were stated that hindered reaching of any agreement. Nevertheless, before their official beginning, the leaders had declared that they were initiating creating of a joint government without conditioning. So the talks remained where they had been before the beginning. LDK offered five ministries to its possible partners, keeping only two for itself and the posts of the president of Kosovo, of the prime minister and chairman of the parliament. The other two parties demanded that the whole "presidential, executive and legislative" power be divided, which means that the LDK get the post of the president of Kosovo, that the prime minister be from PDK, and the chairman of the assembly from AAK.

But that was impossible for LDK. According to the Constitutional framework the chairman of the assembly is elected from the party with the largest number of votes and that party hurried to practice this right by nominating the person who will take this post. On the other hand the candidacy of Ibrahim Rugova for president of Kosovo was undisputable for his party. Therefore, for some time it seemed that the post of the prime minister was the only one that was subject to negotiations. But, LDK would not give up that post either offering the rival parties the post of deputy prime minister and deputy chairman of the assembly, the post it was ready to introduce by amending the constitutional framework of Kosovo (with the assumed approval of Hans Hakkaerup) in order to "contribute" to joint rule. The talks that began about this problem ended at that point and the political parties entered the assembly hall without having reached the agreement. Immediately after the first assembly session which almost turned into a scandal, Ibrahim Rugova clearly declared that that "was the end of the talks and that LDK would constitute the institutions on its own".

PDK stated that "it has not lost hope that an agreement would be reached", while AAK declared that it was "hopeless", so the day after its president Ramush Haradinaj met with head of American office Ambassador John Menzies in order to seek the last possibility to save "hopes for joint rule".

The failure of the effort to reach a political agreement provoked numerous accusations and counter-accusations (mostly in the lobbies). The voting of Serb deputies for the presidency of the assembly of Kosovo (they voted for their own candidates) in which PDK did not take part, was used by the latter to claim that "LDK was entering a coalition with Serb Return coalition". On the other hand, representatives of LDK stated that "PDK's stand leads it to the same position with Return coalition, into obstruction of the assembly". However, this "nationalistic folklore" was not of much help to neither party because their disagreements this time had nothing to do with the Serbs.

The relation of forces in the assembly of Kosovo will make the formation of the future government very difficult and cynical observers have already begun to bet about the possible beginning of functioning of the government and forecasting months of debate. It seems that blackmail with votes will be the next stage. LDK needs 81 votes to elect the president of Kosovo in two rounds, and in the third - last round, it needs at least 61 votes. If there will be no more talks (which is hardly probable), it seems that the struggle will end up as a "purchase" of additional votes LDK will need because it has only 47 deputies in the assembly.

Until that time comes, it seems that long and numerous Latin American soap operas on local TV stations will from now on rank second in popularity. If thermo-electric power plants (which break down every day, but as it seems will not be put on the agenda soon) happen to be capable to produce enough power, the citizens of Kosovo will from now on watch unpredictable TV series - of sessions of the assembly of Kosovo.

Besnik BALA