Kosovo: one year after the political crisis, one year before presidential elections
In Kosovo the indirect election of the President of the Republic will be held in 2016. As in the other European parliamentary States, the Kosovan Head of State has a limited power which becomes more important when there is a political crisis at parties’ level, as it happened last year. Unlike in other European States, the presidential election doesn’t require a qualified majority, allowing the government to elect a person not supported by parliamentary minorities and unable to present himself as an independent and unifying subject, as required by the Constitution.
One year ago the main political issues in Kosovo brought to an early dissolution of the legislature; among the various reasons there were also the creation of the Kosovan Armed Forces (KAF) and the institution of a special tribunal for the crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) between 1998 and 1999. After one year these issues are still being debated, also because of the political crisis which has hit the country after the parliamentary election of June 8th and the attempts to establish political governments, opposed by parliamentary opposition parties.
In march 2014 the parliament voted for the constitution of a special tribunal to judge the crimes committed by the UÇK at the end of the ’90s and discovered by the Council of Europe; albeit there was the opposition of the main party’s leaders, the tribunal was approved thanks to the pressures of the EU. The tribunal will judge according to the Yugoslav law of the ’90s, the Kosovan and UNMIK legislations: it will be composed only by international judges. At the same time the Thaci government approved the transformation of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) in the Armed Forces of Kosovo (AFK) and consequently the institution of a Defense Ministry.
The AFK should have been composed of 15.000 soldiers, twice the size of the KSF, divided in land forces, national guard and training commands. AFK should have been structured according to NATO standards with the purpose to join, in the future, the Alliance. The bill of the AFK needed to be approved by 2/3 of the parliament, along with the positive vote of the ethnic minorities who asked to obtain the assurance for the reserved parliamentary seats for all the next legislatures. Given the internal division of the minorities, the bill’s approval would have been difficult and thus they opted to put an early hand to the legislation.
The same issue of the dissolution of the parliament caused an intense political debate: small parties opposed to new elections, the government wanted a parliamentary vote for the dissolution of the Assembly, while opposition parties supported the idea of a censure motion against the PM.
With the purpose of gaining more seats at the elections, the small Serb parties formed a joint list, supported by Belgrade who invited Serbs living in northern Kosovo to vote. Also the parties who opposed the Thaci government approved of the Serb List, declaring themselves open to an alliance. The joint list played its role in the electoral campaign, without any protest for the legitimacy of the vote; it was fully supported by Serbian government and obtained a wide success among the communities in northern Kosovo.
The elections were held on June 8th and the turnout was 42.63% of the population. PM Hashim Thaci‘s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) gained the simple majority of the seats (37 of 120) followed by the main opposition party, Isa Mustafa‘s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) with 30 seats and Self-determination (VV) with 16 lawmakers.
Although PDK and LDK are both center-right parties, Europeanists and EPP affiliated, they have been competing against each other since the Kosovar independence, gained in 2008 under the Thaci government. Self-determination is an alternative political subject, different from the main Kosovar parties; it opposes to the influence in Kosovar politics of foreign subjects and believes that an harder line in the negotiations with Serbia has to be considered, along with a major defense of citizens’ interests.
The Alliance for Kosovo’s Future (AAK) (11 seats) is a minor center-right Europeanist party, leaded by Ramush Haradinaj, Prime Minister since December 2004 until March 2005, when he was accused of crimes against humanity by ICTY: crimes committed during the Kosovo War; AAK is an historical ally of LDK with whom has ruled during UNMIK administration of Kosovo. The joint Serb List got 9 seats, followed by Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA) a minor party detached from PDK in 2013.
Although PDK won the simply majority in the Assembly, it lost its only allied party, the liberal New Alliance for Kosovo, which remained outside the parliament. Mustafa soon formed a coalition with AAK and NISMA in order to obtain the majority. After that, throughout meetings with VV started to establish a government alternative to Thaci’s one, led by Haradinaj and with Mustafa to be elected as President of the Republic in 2016.
After the finding of the agreement among the parties a quarrel aroused, about the meaning of art. 84 and 95 of the Consitution which rule the nomination of the PM by the President on the proposal of the party or coalition which has gained the highest number of seats in parliament: according to PDK the object of these articles would have been the parties or coalitions who took part in the elections, allowing Thaci to obtain another nomination while, according to opposition parties, the decision of the President should have been considered the effective majority inside the Assembly, the one composed by LDK, VV, AAK and NISMA.
With the purpose of reinforcing this opinion all these parties, except for VV, formed a joint parliamentary group since the first parliamentary session and being the biggest group, more than PDK’s one who criticized this action considered prohibited since the Constitution sets that during the 1st séance the parliament has to reflect the election’s results. Following the heated debate the President Jahjaga, with the purpose to maintain his impartiality role, requested the Constitutional Court an explanation of the meaning of the Constitution: the decision was in favor of the PDK who was still unable to forge an alliance, and thus a majority, inside the parliament.
Following the Court’s decision, the agreements among the opposition parties were shacked: particularly Self-determinationists distanced themselves from the alliance, which reconsidered the division of the State offices. A month after the elections, parliament elected Mustafa as his speaker; because the Constitution sets the same rules for the election of the speaker and the nomination of the PM, and considering the Constitutional Court ruling, Thaci declared not to recognize Mustafa’s election, neither the authority of a such parliament, bringing the action in front of the Constitutional Court which nullified the election.
In August the political front was still tense, PDK and LDK positions were irreconcilables. There was a complete opposition to the proposal of a caretaker government, the presence of VV in a possible governmental alliance disliked the EU, because it was considered as an obstacle to the stabilization process between Serbia and Kosovo and because it could prevent the participation of ethnical minorities parties to any possible government. The institutional stalemate also involved a delaying of the Kosovo’s EU association process and a stoppage of the negotiations with Belgrade.
In November the PM declared to be open to Mustafa’s nomination as PM, considering the main national interest to put aside personal interests and following international pressures. PDK opening framed opposition alliance: LDK declared itself ready to establish a government with Thaci, maybe for the European perplexities about Haradinaj. At the end of the year Mustafa was nominated PM and Thaci became his Foreign Minister; the agreement reached by the two parties forecasts the pursuance of the negotiation with Servia, the EU Association Agreement and the election of Thaci as President of the Republic in 2016, when Jahjaga office will expire. The agreement allowed to elect a new speaker of the Assembly, from PDK parliamentary group.
Some political analysts noted how the parliament was deprived of its authority: the political agreement was reached inside the President bureau and with the participation of the US ambassador, who played a main role in the mediation among parties, along with the British one.
During his speech in front of the parliament Mustafa explained the main objectives of his government: empowerment of the rule of law, economic development, employment, more European and Atlantic integration, pursuing the friendship with the USA, protecting ethnical diversities and keeping on the normalization of the relationship with Belgrade.
The opposition accused the government of being the cause of pervasive corruption, because it is the heir of the previous Thaci cabinet, who reached up to the European mission EULEX. Serbs lawmakers boycotted the séance, declaring that the conditions set out for their participation in the government weren’t met. Among these claims there was also the creation of a Serb Municipality Association and the return of the goods of the Serb orthodox Church.
After the establishment of the institution the main issues of the previous legislature have become more relevant. First of all the Kosovo Armed Forces, which requires to the amendment of the Constitution with a 2/3 majority, needs the collaboration of the Serb List. One year prior to the next presidential elections the coalition is shaking: even though Mustafa’s will to respect the agreement reached with Thaci, many members of LDK expressed their intention not to vote for the former PM, considering more appropriate fresh election in 2016.
Bachelor’s degree in European Policy and Integration (University of Padua)