Kosovo elections: the mixed record

Kosovo elections: the mixed record 

Tirana Times - http://tiranatimes.com/

By Alba Çela 

Kosovo leaders must have forgone all the exhaustion produced by the electoral campaign and the close following of the election days and must have beamed with pleasure at the multiple praising received from the international community. Quiet democratic elections, free of incidents, respectful process and peaceful rotation of power. If only we in Albania could succeed to do the same,” said one of the well-know TV hostesses, reporting live form freezing snowy Prishtina. Indeed given the heightened concerns about security, the fragile situation that precedes the anxious date named December 10 and the announced troubles of die-hard Serbian groups with medieval names, one could only fear that an important involving political process like the three-fold elections had the serious potential to cause disruption. Yet it didn’t happen. However, if one leaves apart the joyful realization that there was no catastrophe, which in itself cannot be a sustainable reason for pride and happiness, the picture seems not so rosy. 

First there is the issue of low voter turnout, around 10 percentage points lower than last year. Some mention half-heartedly that the freezing temperatures and the bad weather in general prohibited people to go vote. Not good enough, given that the stakes were too high for a little shiver to scare the voters off. Rather as a good friend from Kosovo explained, disenchantment with the political class is the real reason. Lack of concrete action towards status development, rampant unemployment and corruption, nepotism and inefficiency have disappointed a lot of people. “The 57 percent that dint go out to vote send an important message,” my friend insists and that is “When it comes to choosing between a bad and a bad choice, it is not worth it!” and despite being an highly educated and politically conscious young person, he joined the non-voters club this time. 

Second the Serb boycott. Now of course the reasons behind this are grave and mostly out of the influence that Albanian Kosovar leaders can exert. Addressing a forum in Tirana, ORA party leader Veton Surroi explained it loud and clear that the Serb population had been physically and psychologically threatened from Belgrade in order not to participate. Scores of others felt there was no real choice for them because they felt unrepresented despite repeated guarantees for a multiethnic minority-sensitive state by virtually all major competing subjects. If nothing else, this boycott presents the future leadership of Kosovo with an important indicator and that is: the challenge of integration is harder than anyone thinks and offering guarantees will not suffice. 

Finally the elections penalized the political party Ora which by all standards presented an interesting choice that combined elitist elements with grass roots initiatives. The reason given has been that the candidates should have been picked more carefully in order to appeal to larger masses and not only limited urban groups. Ironically Mr. Surroi himself had supported the threshold of 5 percent which is going to ban his subject form being part of the new parliament. Nevertheless, it is definitely not a good sign if the winning parties have to be necessarily populist. 

Whoever has won these elections, and in this case there is no need to contest Mr. Thaçi’s Democratic Party of Kosovo, will be in power during one of the hardest times for the entire region. In the midst of the important events that lie ahead it is important not to lose track of this lessons taken out of the electoral process of November 17.