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.
Kosovo is seen as a country with a large diaspora in proportion to the general number of citizens in the country. Various sources say that between 400,000 and 600,000 citizens equipped with Kosovo documents live abroad. The general number of diaspora members is between 800,000 and 1 million.
According to data from the 2011 census, over 40 per cent of migrants have settled in Germany and Switzerland. It is estimated that over 300,000 of them can vote.
During the early parliamentary election in June 2017, only 20,354, or 6.8 per cent, of diaspora members applied to register for voting. The Central Elections Committee, KQZ, approved 15,118 applications. Despite of that, only 5,949, 30 per cent of the applications, sent ballots, and only 5,246 were deemed valid.
This was also the case during municipal elections and the runoff in October and November 2017 respectively, which were characterized by a low turnout from the diaspora, half as low in comparison to the national elections.