While the economic, social and cultural contributions made by the Kosovo diaspora for their home country is well-recognized, their contribution to the direct democratic process – namely, elections – has been met with continuous obstacles. Kosovo citizens that live abroad are entitled to voting rights as per the country’s constitution. However, experience so far has shown that the voting process for diaspora members is complicated and riddled with technical, administrative and legal snags. In the best case scenario, diaspora members from Kosovo faced many difficulties while participating in the voting process. Worst case scenario, it can be said that they were denied a right guaranteed by the constitution and laws in force. Yet, these problems have had no proper resolution, because voting from abroad is seen as a secondary issue in the debate for electoral reform in Kosovo.
Voters in Kosovo are heading to the polls for the second round of local elections that are seen as another step in the young republic’s effort to solidify its democratic credentials. The November 19 runoffs are taking place in half of the country’s 38 municipalities – including in the capital, Pristina — where mayors and councilors were not elected in the first round last month. People are also voting in the Serb-majority municipality of Partes, where the Central Election Commission (CEC) annulled the results of the first round following vote manipulations. After casting her ballot in Pristina, CEC chief Valdete Daka urged all registered voters to go to the polls.
Kosovo’s failure to establish a government two months after an election is stalling its bids for greater international recognition and blocking funds for the poverty-stricken country. A coalition led by President Hashim Thaci’s PDK party — itself in power since 2007 — topped early parliamentary polls held on June 11, but the alliance did not win the absolute majority needed to govern alone. Made up of the old guard of ex-guerrilla fighters, the coalition can only form a government after nominating and winning support for a parliamentary speaker. But so far the coalition has boycotted assembly sessions and a vote for speaker because it needs the backing of more deputies. “The ruling political class doesn’t want to give up power,” said Agron Bajrami, editor of the Koha Ditore newspaper.
Lawmakers in Kosovo’s new parliament have failed again to vote on a speaker to move forward with the formation of a new government, continuing a two-month-long political crisis sparked by inconclusive elections. The Kosovo Assembly failed to establish a quorum of 61 deputies in the hall on August 14, prompting interim speaker Adem Mikullovci to end the session. He said he would notify parties in the legislature in writing of the next scheduled meeting of the house. The failure for a fifth time to vote on a speaker, the first crucial step toward forming a new government, has raised worries that Kosovo could be headed for a political crisis and fresh elections.
The coalition of former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders won the most votes Sunday in Kosovo’s general election, which also saw a surge in popularity for a nationalist party, according to preliminary results. The ex-rebels came in first with around 35 percent of the vote. The nationalist Self-Determination Movement was neck-and-neck with the coalition led by former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, which had around 26 percent each after the counting of about 70 percent of the votes, according to Democracy in Action, a monitoring group. No group can govern alone and coalitions will be likely.
A coalition led by the ruling centre-right Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) came first in Kosovo’s snap parliamentary election on Sunday, but it will have to find a coalition partner to form a stable government, results based on a partial vote count showed. With 70 percent of votes counted, the PDK-led coalition had 34.3 percent of votes, the opposition Vetevendosje (VV) party 26.3 percent, and a coalition led by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) 25.8 percent, the Democracy in Action non-governmental organization said About 1.9 million Kosovars, nearly half a million of whom live abroad, were registered to vote in the third election since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Kosovars vote on Sunday to choose the new 120-seat parliament that will face some seemingly intractable problems. There is the thorny issue of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government; the continuation of fraught talks with Serbia, which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state; and potential war crimes trials of some senior political leaders. Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives, all promising to break the isolation and secure growth, have nominated candidates.
Opposition politicians in Kosovo have reiterated their demand for early elections as the only solution to the political crisis – while government MPs insist the answer is further dialogue. Opposition politicians in Kosovo have repeated their demand for early elections, saying this alone will solve the country’s acute political crisis. Rexhep Selimi, an MP from the opposition Vetevendosje [Self-Determination] movement, said the government had lost its legitimity and even its legality. “Elections are necessary and inevitable,” he told BIRN, adding that early elections should be considered a healthy option for society.
The ruling party of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has declared victory in Kosovo’s parliamentary elections in which the Serbian minority is taking part for the first time since the territory broke away from neighbouring Serbia. An exit poll conducted by the Gani Bobi social research institute put Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) on 33 percent, just ahead of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) on 30 percent. Thaci is likely to form a coalition government with smaller parties and ethnic Serbs to secure a third four-year term at the helm of the young Balkan country.
Hashim Thaci’s “thumbs-up” gesture has become his trademark in election campaigns since he helped lead the guerrilla insurgency to throw off Serbian rule over Kosovo 15 years ago. The thumbs were on show again this week in the western town of Gjakova, where 46-year-old Thaci was on the campaign trail ahead of an election on Sunday he hopes will give him a third term as prime minister. The show of confidence, however, belies the pressure on Thaci from political rivals and a war crimes investigation that threatens to ensnare former comrades-in-arms and even his closest allies.
Minority Serbs in a tense northern Kosovo city cast ballots under tight security on Sunday, redoing a vote that was derailed when masked men attacked staff and destroyed voting materials. Special police units in bulletproof vests backed by members of the European Union police and justice mission and armed NATO peacekeepers stood outside polling stations to prevent a repeat of the electoral violence that stopped the Nov. 3 poll in ethnically divided Mitrovica. The incident was blamed on hardline Serbs who fear the vote endorses Kosovo’s 2008 secession from Serbia. Kosovo authorities said Sunday that voter turnout to elect a mayor of the Serb-run part of the city and members of the local council was 22 percent.
The municipal elections in Kosovo on were not really local, and come down to two very different stories depending on whether one looks at the Serb-held northern region or the rest of the country. These were not ordinary elections: they were meant to mark a peaceful transfer of power over northern Kosovo, from Serbia to the Kosovo government in Pristina. Their failure is a serious warning sign. The municipal elections in Kosovo on 3 November were not really local, and come down to two very different stories depending on whether one looks at the Serb-held northern region or the rest of the country. In the government-controlled south, Election Day was inspirational as all communities turned out heavily and peacefully. North of the Ibar river, the elections were tragic, with hubris and assorted other flaws leading to a day ending in violence and confusion. These were not ordinary elections: they were meant to mark a peaceful transfer of power over northern Kosovo, from Serbia to the Kosovo government in Pristina. Their failure is a serious warning sign.
Masked men storming polling stations during Kosovo’s local elections, on November 3rd, was the image that captured the interest of the international media. But as Petrit Selimi, the country’s deputy foreign minister, says, events in three polling stations “don’t make an election, they make good visuals for TV.” The polling stations, in the divided city of Mitrovica, were important, but Mr Selimi has a point. Overall, Kosovo’s poll was remarkable for being so smooth and uneventful. Kosovo’s general election, in 2010, was tainted by accusations of “industrial-scale” fraud. This time no one has made any significant complaints. The turnout was also far higher than for local elections in most of the rest of Europe.
Roberto Gualtieri said on Tuesday that the vote count for polling stations in the four municipalities in northern Kosovo and Metohija has not begun yet. Gualtieri is chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission. The election materials are in Priština, and our job is to monitor and analyze the process. In relation to that, the Central Electoral Commission should assess the situation and deliver a decision, Gualtieri said at a press conference. The EU Election Observation Mission condemns the attacks on the three polling stations in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, Gualtieri said, underlining that the attempts at sabotage failed. The EU mission assessed positively the electoral process in Kosovo, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) offered key assistance to the process, despite great challenges, he said.
“Voting material from three election centres in Mitrovica was totally unusable and the central election commission decided to annul and repeat the vote there,” commission member Nenad Rikalo said. The date for the repeat vote will be announced later, he told Serbian state television RTS. Electoral committee members prepare for voting in the municipal elections at a polling station in the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica, Kosovo, 03 November 2013. Voting was cut short Sunday in Mitrovica when masked Serb extremists attacked officials and smashed ballot boxes. Other violations, such as intimidation of voters, also marred the day.
Violence that forced voting stations to close early on Sunday in the Serbian-dominated city of north Mitrovica and led to the destruction of ballots is likely to prompt Kosovo authorities to order a rerun of elections there, officials said on Monday. While violence was a blow to European Union-brokered peace efforts between Serbia and Kosovo, regional and European officials stressed that elections went smoothly in the rest of the country and there was significant turnout of ethnic Serbs in southern Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians dominate. On Tuesday, the EU’s election mission will issue its preliminary verdict on the conduct of Sunday’s elections. Decisions on whether and how to boost security in the north in coming weeks are still being considered, officials said.
Hard-line Serbs in northern Kosovo intimidated would-be voters and were suspected of attacking a polling station during local elections Sunday. The actions underscored Kosovo’s strained relations with Serbia, even as both states seek closer ties to the European Union. It was the first time voters in all of Kosovo were choosing local councilors and mayors since the country seceded from Serbia in 2008. The participation in the election of minority Serbs in Kosovo was being watched carefully. The integration of Serbs into Kosovar political life is a key element of an EU-brokered deal between Serbia and Kosovo that seeks to settle their disputes and unlock EU funds. The Serb hard-liners’ tactics, however, appeared to suppress voter turnout and raised concerns that Serbia had not fulfilled its pledge to stop fueling defiance among Serbs in Kosovo, especially in the north, where they dominate the population.
liver Ivanović says the agreement signed on Monday stipulates that the OSCE will only monitor Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections in Kosovo. The the Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija also underlined on Tuesday that the polls will be organized by the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK). In a statement for Tanjug, Ivanović dismissed the claims by the government in Priština that the OSCE had taken it upon itself to organize the parliamentary and presidential elections in the province on May 6. The Kosovo Albanian authorities in Priština, meanwhile, issued a statement welcoming the OSCE decision to take it on itself to ensure that all conditions are met for the Serbs in Kosovo to vote in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
The European Union has welcomed an agreement reached on OSCE facilitation of voting in Kosovo in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections. In a statement issued on Tuesday, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton pledged full support to the OSCE for carrying out its facilitating role. She called on both Kosovo and Serbia to continue to cooperate with the OSCE in good faith so that the vote is held in a peaceful and orderly way. She also urged all sides to refrain from any action which may spark tensions. “EULEX will monitor the security environment and will execute its mandate in close cooperation with the other international and local organizations involved,” the High Representative said.
The Ministry for Kosovo told the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) that the OSCE had set out a number of requirements for holding elections in Kosovo. Advisor to the minister for Kosovo and Metohija Vlada Jovičić said that the commission and the OSCE had agreed in principle on the OSCE assisting RIK in conducting the elections in the province, but the OSCE requirements that were “bordering on legality.” The OSCE recommends that for security reasons, the votes should be counted outside Kosovo and Metohija, the electoral commissions should only have a chairperson and two more members and the polls should be held at a total of 19 stations with between 70 and 100 polling booths, while in the mostly Serb-populated north, a few more polling stations should be opened. One of the OSCE requirements is that Serbia’s national symbols only be placed inside the polling stations.
Serbian authorities will not organise local elections in Kosovo according to the Serbian minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović. He explained that Belgrade received a negative answer from the UN administration in Pristina – UNMIK – which is administrating Kosovo in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1244. “We do not intend to break UNSC Resolution 1244 in any way and endanger Serbs living south from the Ibar river,” Bogdanović stressed, reminding that according to the Resolution, UNMIK is in charge of organising local elections in Kosovo. He added that this situation does not imply closure of Serbian institutions in Kosovo, pointing out that elections were not held in 1999 or 2008. Bogdanović rejected announcements of two Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo who stated they will hold local elections regardless of the UNMIK stance. He reiterated that no one has the right to break the UNSC Resolution 1244.
Kosovo’s Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi said on Wednesday the police were still determined to prevent Serbia from holding local elections in Kosovo. “The police will work with EULEX and KFOR and do everything to prevent the poll,” he told Radio Kontakt Plus. Rexhepi does not expect heavy rioting once the police intervenes. “The police will focus on confiscating election material and prevention, and those actions are regulated by law,” he stated, adding that the authorities wished no tension, but also that those organizing the elections should be sensible. He did not specify when the operation would occur, explaining that it was part of the plan and that he could not discuss it.
On 14-15 February, Serbs living in four municipalities of northern Kosovo voted in a referendum and overwhelmingly rejected the authority of the Republic of Kosovo. Even the referendum question seemed to indicate the direction in which the vote would go: ‘Do you accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo?’ Some 35,500 people living in the four Kosovo municipalities were eligible to vote and, according to preliminary results, around 75% of them cast their ballots, with 99.74% circling ‘No’.
Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo voted Tuesday in a referendum on whether to recognize the government in Pristina, which they have ignored since Serbia’s former province became independent in 2008. Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. Serbs dominate in a small swathe of the north bordering Serbia and pledge allegiance to Belgrade. They have so far resisted efforts by the Kosovo government to extend its authority there. The result of the two-day referendum is expected on February 19. The decision will have little practical impact but could further stoke ethnic tensions.
Post-Election Public Opinion in Kosovo 2011, IFES’ third post-election survey in the country since 2008, is now available. The poll captures the perspectives of Kosovo citizens on matters such as perceptions of democracy, opinions on the December 2010 elections, and assessments of the overall situation in the country.
These IFES surveys have provided much insight into the evolution of opinions of Kosovo citizens from immediately prior to the country’s declaration of independence in 2008 to this year. The data not only gives a pulse of the country, but is a thorough gauge of public opinion on the country’s advancing electoral process and democracy.