Kosova’s snap elections held on February 14th, the sixth parliamentary poll since the country’s independence, resulted in a clear victory for Albin Kurti’s left-wing party. A total of 58 seats for the Self-Determination Movement (LVV) has put it far ahead of its rivals. The Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) won 19 seats, followed by the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) which won 15 seats and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK) which won only 8 seats.
Another 10 seats are reserved for Kosova’s Serbian minority, whereas 10 others are allocated to other minorities. Turnout was just over 47%, or 2.5% higher than in the 2019 election.
Kurti, the winner of the elections and the upcoming PM formed a pre-election coalition with Vjosa Osmani’s list, the acting president of Kosovo. Although they both come from very different pasts and opposite ideologies, they have said they are determined to work together to fight corruption and state capture. Even though the Constitution allocates (at least) a ministry to a Serbian party represented in the Assembly of Kosova, Kurti has made it clear several times now that he will need the votes from other non-Serb minorities to form the government, as he will not do so with Serbian List, the chauvinistic Serb party in Kosova, which serves as an instrument of hegemonic tendencies of Serbia.
Thus, it is of outmost importance that the government is established without the votes of the Serbian List in order to halt Belgrade’s agenda in the country and to send a message to the international community that the new government will neither flirt not cooperate with such destructive elements. The Serbian community should be involved in the government, but they should represent the needs of Kosovo Serbs and not serve as proxies for harmful Serbian state policies which only serve to prevent progress and hold the citizens of Kosova hostage. Kosova Serb's involvement in the government should be based on principles of joint progress of its citizens and not serve the politics of another state. Serb parties in Kosovo need to choose, by participating in the Kosova government and should work for the Government of Kosova and not the Government of Serbia, all the while protecting the interests of Serbian minority in Kosova.
There were concerns, however, that the Belgrade-backed party has been trying to instill candidates supportive of Serbian List among the reserved seats for non-Serb communities. If that is the case, the consequences are two-fold: the MPs will favor issues that are more pressing to the Serbian List and Belgrade rather than their own, and they could help jeopardize Kosovas’s status.
Serbia is the biggest threat to Kosova's sovereignty and indirectly endangers peace in the region. Belgrade has continuously lobbied not only to stop Kosova from joining international organizations, but has also asked other countries to revoke their recognition.
Political turmoil in Kosova serves as leverage for the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, to remain in power while also giving him an upper hand in the EU mediated talks. Well aware of that, he constantly tries to trigger instability. For instance, in 2017 a train set off from Belgrade to northern Mitrovica without notifying Kosovar authorities, bearing the words “Kosovo is Serbia”; at the end of last year Vucic announced that Belgrade will begin an anti-Covid vaccination campaign in neighboring northern Kosovo, without ever discussing it with Kosovar authorities; and just a few days ago Vucic published on his official Instagram account the map of Kosova immersed in the Serbian flag. His undemocratic track record as well as his tendencies to infringe on Kosova’s sovereignty are nothing new, yet, they have to be dealt with by Kurti’s new government.
However, the upcoming PM has made it clear that the dialogue with Serbia is not his priority. Instead, Kurti said that the new government will focus on real issues that tackle people’s everyday lives such as strengthening the rule of law, creating new jobs and dealing with the pandemic. Yet, Kurti’s visit to Albania with the goal to endorse the candidates of Self-Determination Movement in Albania’s upcoming general elections, while at the same time inviting Albanian leaders and politicians from the region to commemorate the League of Lezha, raises confusion and skepticism.
The EU mediated dialogue between Kosova and Serbia cannot be less important than a symbolic visit to Lezha, nor less of a priority than an attempt to gain electoral support for his candidates in Albania. The new government should establish a broad political consensus among all parliamentary groups in the country and should create a working group, with representatives of marginalized groups (women, youth, LGBTI, ethnic minorities, etc), that will define and regulate the principles of the Kosova-Serbia dialogue.
There is no question that the new Government faces many challenges, from bringing the country back on track after battling the pandemic and fighting corruption, to resuming the talks and sitting on the negotiating table.
For the very first time, these elections showed that the citizens of Kosovo were able to bring significant political change. The question is this: is the new government ready to leave aside symbolic actions and rhetoric and take full responsibility in governing the country while becoming a viable partner of Brussels and Washington?
I am hopeful.