Wednesday, October 20, 2004

IWPR Special Edition - Kosovo Election - See comments for full articles

1 comment:

KosovaReport said...



Whoever takes office will have to deal with growing public frustration over
jobs, energy and schools, as well as final status.
By Arben Salihu, Muhamet Hajrullahu and Jeta Xharra in Pristina

For all the disillusionment with the old parties, newcomers may struggle to
break through.
By Zana Limani in Pristina

The straightjacket forced on Kosovo's media since March has only worsened
its condition.
By Baton Haxhiu in Pristina

Autonomous enclaves cannot help most Kosovo Serbs who live scattered
throughout the territory.
By Duska Anastasijevic in Belgrade

American-Albanians appear to hope Kerry victory will put Kosovo back on the
foreign policy agenda.
By Stacy Sullivan in New York

****************** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: ***************

IWPR AFRICA REPORTS. For IWPR's pilot issue of Africa Reports see:

more information.

FREE SUBSCRIPTION. Readers are urged to subscribe to IWPR's full range of
electronic publications at:

****************** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: ***************


Whoever takes office will have to deal with growing public frustration over
jobs, energy and schools, as well as final status.

By Arben Salihu, Muhamet Hajrullahu and Jeta Xharra in Pristina

More than 1.3 million registered voters this weekend have the opportunity to
shape the future make-up of the next government in Kosovo, or the Kosovo
Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, PISG, as it is called.

As no party is likely to get more than 61 of the 120 assembly seats and form
a majority on its own, any administration is likely to resemble the current
multi-party arrangement, which has been widely criticised as inefficient.

A total of 27 parties and 5 independent candidates are competing for seats
in the October 23 election. Ten will be reserved for ethnic Serbs and 10
more for smaller minorities, such as Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians, Bosniaks and

Kosovo's first post-war election in 2001 resulted in a coalition dominated
by the three biggest parties, the Democratic League of Kosova, LDK, the
Democratic Party of Kosova, PDK, and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova,

But so far, Kosovo's local administration has wielded only limited powers,
for under UN Resolution 1244, the entity has effectively been governed as a
UN protectorate.

Talks on Kosovo's final status are to begin in 2005, however, which makes
the coming election more crucial than its predecessor. The next government
will enjoy increased powers, once the international administration starts to
hand over all or most of its responsibilities.

"These elections are particularly important," Naim Maloku, vice-president of
the AAK, told IWPR, "because during the next parliament's three-year
mandate, the process of determining Kosovo's final status will both start
and be concluded."

Xhavit Haliti of the PDK, a member of the Kosovo assembly, warned that this
coming transfer of power will also pose a considerable challenge to the
politicians. "Whoever takes office will have some homework to do," Haliti
said, "such as fulfilling standards, dealing with the energy crisis and
ensuring a secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens."

According to Muhamet Hamiti, a member of the LDK and spokesperson for
Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova, the incoherence of the various
government ministries, led by different parties, hampered the government in
carrying out its tasks in the past.

"Some ministers acted as if they were in the opposition," Hamiti said. "It
was impossible for the government to function normally."

Heather Kashner, director of the National Democratic Institute, NDI, a
Pristina-based think-tank, agrees. "One of the first things the next
government must do is to have a more coherent agenda on issues such as the
economy, education and the environment," she said.

Research conducted in September by the UN Development Programme, UNDP, and
by the prime minister's office on good governance, suggested the general
public rates the government and presidency among the five most corrupt
institutions in Kosovo.

Leon Malazogu, research director at the Kosovar Institute for Policy
Research and Development, KIPRED, says one way to combat this perception is
to encourage a more vigorous parliamentary opposition.

"To have a system of accountability and checks and balances, Kosovo needs an
opposition," he told IWPR. "The more opposition there is, the less chance
there is of abuses in government institutions."

But Ramush Tahiri, advisor to Nexhat Daci, the assembly speaker, says such a
development is unlikely while party leaders remain fixated on the goal of
entering government.

"The main parties are more interested in holding some power, even if this
just means holding a single ministry, than being in the opposition," Tahiri
told IWPR.

According to Tahiri, party bickering after the elections is likely to centre
on who is to get control of the lucrative key ministries, such as transport,
finance, the economy and agriculture.

"Most people think companies that win tenders to build roads or other
services will hand over about 15 per cent of the value of the service to
government ministries, in the form of bribes," Tahiri explained.

Heather Kashner, however, predicted that it will be more difficult for the
next Kosovo government to get away with such financial unaccountability.

"Kosovar people have become very savvy," she said. "And they are sick of the
Kosovo leadership's blame game with the international community. You can be
sure the following government will be held accountable for what happens
during its next mandate."

Whatever government does take office in Pristina, it will have to deal with
mounting public frustration over issues such as unemployment, power
shortages and poor educational facilities, as well as final status.

What Kashner fears is that many people still harbour unrealistic
expectations about what their own government, or the international
administration, can realistically achieve in the months ahead.

"As we have seen before," she warned, "expectations that aren't met, lead to
bad things."

Arben Salihu and Muhamet Hajrullahu are regular IWPR contributors. Jeta
Xharra is IWPR Kosovo project manager.


For all the disillusionment with the old parties, newcomers may struggle to
break through.

By Zana Limani in Pristina

As the election campaign opened, a small donkey named Polly strolled down
Pristina's main Mother Theresa Street with a banner rapped up around it,
reading, "Vote for me, I guarantee you independence."

The donkey, presented as a mock independent candidate, at one point walked
past an election poster of Kosovo's biggest party, the Democratic League of
Kosovo, LDK, whose logo runs Freedom, Independence, Democracy.

Krenar Gashi, 20, a founder of Levizja Movement, a youth movement advocating
social change, said the point of this stunt was to get across the message
that most politicians' promises in the campaign are totally unserious.

"People are sick and tired of voting for empty promises from politicians who
think they can run a campaign with only the independence issue on the
agenda," Gashi said.

His disappointment with local institutions is so deep he does not even feel
it is worth voting.

Though frustration is high over the lack of achievements in Kosovo, few
people really believe staying at home on election day offers an answer.

Florim Beqiri, 32, a bookseller, said he was going to vote, though he was
deeply disillusioned with what the government had done over the past three

"Many politicians made promises based on people's low expectations," Beqiri
said. "They use the fact that people are not well educated and are not aware
of the rights and public services they should expect."

Beqiri believes the roots of many institutional problems in the Kosovan
society lie in corrupt party structures. "The parties have become a sort of
business," he added. "They only work for their own benefit."

Few would deny that local institutions in Kosovo suffer from structural
weaknesses and that this is reflected at the heart of government. Kosovo's
prime minister has little power over the 10 ministries of his coalition
government, which are spread among five parties.

Eli Krasniqi, 25, a sociology student, says the pre-electoral campaign is an
insult to voters. "They didn't care about what was happening for three
years, and then suddenly they start building and fixing roads, just before
the election," he said. "They are trying to pull the wool over our eyes."

True to Krasniqi's words, recent weeks have seen an explosion of activity on
Kosovo's roads, with potholed highways and broken pavements suddenly getting
long-needed repairs. The recent fixture of the water supply in Pristina has
been linked similarly to the desire of the parties running the local
government to win votes.

But not everyone is complaining about this burst in pre-election spending.
One theatre director told IWPR, "We never had an international theatre
festival in Kosovo before, but suddenly the money was found to organise one
- three weeks before the elections."

"I only wish we had elections every year," he added.

Bexhet Brajshori, minister of culture, from the LDK party, reminded
audiences attending the festival that they should they be grateful to his
party chief, as the event was organised "under the patronage of the
President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova".

If the parties are trying ever more inventively to convince voters to go out
and vote, this is partly because a report of the United Nations Development
Programme, UNDP, in September, suggested voter turnout has been falling

While 79 per cent of the electorate voted in Kosovo's first post-war
election in 2000, the percentage fell to 64 per cent in 2001 and only 54 per
cent in the last elections in 2002.

"Voter turnout has decreased steadily from the first elections, in part
perhaps because people see no benefit to participating," the UNDP report

Melihate Termkolli, head of the election centre of the LDK, which holds 48
of the 120 seats in parliament, is confident that popular disappointment
will not translate into a loss of votes for the LDK.

"There has been progress in several areas and we have done everything in our
power to improve the situation," he said. "People know that - our support
has grown."

Independence remains the core issue for the LDK, on which it has based all
its campaigns since 1989, when the party emerged to articulate ethnic
Albanian opposition to the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

However, independence and state-building is on the agenda of almost all
other 31 parties competing for seats in the elections, even if it is
becoming harder to convince Kosovars that independence offers the solution
to all their problems.

"I'm tired of the way they always promise big things like independence," Eli
Krasniqi said. "If independence means no power, no drinking water, no jobs -
that is not the sort of independence I want."

Nita Luci, 27, an anthropologist, said the ruling parties do not address
social issues like gender equality, or health problems, such as the increase
in cases of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

"Even new parties like ORA, [led by the well-known publicist Veton Surroi]
which are promising to reform the health system, do not set out what these
reforms are, or how will they make them happen," she said.

However, ORA electoral candidate Labinot Salihu maintains that this new
party is more in tune with citizens' real needs than most others.

"Many of us in ORA have been civic activists for a long time and are in
touch with citizens' everyday social troubles," Salihu said. "We will not
engage with citizens only during election times, or when we need something
from them."

For all these fine words, new parties like ORA face a formidable challenge
in convincing the voters to change old voting habits and abandon the more
traditional parties, such as the LDK, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK
and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK.

Speaking probably for many, Fetije Krasniqi, 20, a student of Albanian
language and literature, said, "It is difficult for many people to trust the
politicians they no so well, and even harder to trust the ones who have just
entered politics."

Zana Limani is a regular IWPR contributor.


The straightjacket forced on Kosovo's media since March has only worsened
its condition.

By Baton Haxhiu in Pristina

The way the local media has reported on Kosovo's election campaign so far
only shows how - five months after the March riots - it remains in as poor a
state as ever.

The media feels it is still hostage to the events of March 17, when it was
widely condemned for using inflammatory, hateful, language, and for
irresponsible reporting.

The crisis dates back to the evening of March 16, when first reports were
aired on the alleged drowning of three children in the Ibar river, near
divided Mitrovica.

The next morning, school children's protests on the Albanian side of
Mitrovica turned violent and in the ensuing chaos 19 people were killed.
Some 4,000 locals - mostly Serbs - were forced from their homes.

International representatives heaped blame on the Kosovar media for stoking
the tragedy.

But the regulations and recommendations that international bodies have
handed to local media since then have only caused stagnation.

Bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
OSCE, which is responsible for building democratic institutions in Kosovo,
if anything, have worsened the media's un-professionalism and increased

One result of these internationally-sponsored recommendations is the rule
obliging the Kosovo media to grant equal airtime or newspaper space to each
and every candidate and party in the election.

It is as if a media commissioner on a mission to "democratise" the US
insisted on the most politically irrelevant party getting the same airtime
or column space as the Democrats or Republicans.

The "equal time" rule, which has lent a nonsensical quality to the election
debate on our TV screens, was compiled hastily and without consultation with
local journalists.

It gives many people the impression that the officials who came up with this
rule are from North Korea, or Cuba, rather than from democracies.

This kind of bureaucratic management makes people doubt whether they can
ever build a democratic society or effective media with international powers
who think rules such as this will encourage debate.

Clearly, this regulation was produced with the aim of reducing the chance of
emotive reporting in a heated election campaign.

This fear stems from the March events, after which the OSCE and the
Temporary Media Commissioner, TMC, blamed emotional reporting for stirring
up the riots.

While many will agree with the critics of this emotional reporting, those
same critics fail to mention the international institutions that were in
charge of building up the Kosovo media for four years before March.

Moreover, after the dramatic publication of their condemnations, especially
of the public television station, these media outlets have simply taken
refuge in silence, which can hardly be counted as the fulfilment of the
proposed recommendations.

The OSCE, which was supposed to help develop the media in Kosovo, seems to
have professionally castrated it, especially with reference to public

This "castration" has been all too visible in the recent election campaign,
where the pressure imposed since March appears to have strangled any chance
of a meaningful debate. There is less freedom of speech now than before the

The media, especially public television, have been transformed into chambers
where journalists keep minutes of events, rather than actually reporting on

With no embarrassment at all, the internationals bodies are building up an
obedient and bureaucratic media in Kosovo, where people are afraid to speak
freely and see free speech as if it were the devil.

The international officials - who are only here temporarily - would rather
stifle free speech than let it develop, in case it backfires, as it did in
March. As for the local staff, they are poor and want to keep their jobs.

One exit strategy from this situation would be for the local media to accept
part of their responsibility for the March events, not least because many
observers would agree that some of their professional errors were not

They were often a consequence of inexperience and a result of having very
young journalists on the job reporting fast-moving events, amid a lack of
official sources.

The local media have been condemned too much, at the expense of any
self-criticism on the part of the international institutions for their own

After all, the OSCE provided the training for the journalists in the public
broadcasting sector, and organisations such as this ought also to be held
responsible for any consequent unprofessionalism.

The TMC's recommendation for international officials to be restored to their
former workplaces in the Kosovo media needs to be struck down immediately.

Any recommendation that undermines local staff in this way runs totally
contrary to the spirit of what the international bodies came to do in Kosovo
in the first place.

Despite the fact that the March events were a tragedy, this bad experience
should be seen as a lesson for future Kosovo journalists, not as a means to
build up bureaucratic infrastructures for censorship and time-keeping.

The OSCE Media Office and the TMC should leave media development in the
hands of Kosovans, without heavy-handed bureaucratic interference. They
should leave the courts and the auditors to judge mistakes.

Baton Haxhiu is executive director of the Association for Professional
Journalists in Kosovo.


Autonomous enclaves cannot help most Kosovo Serbs who live scattered
throughout the territory.

By Duska Anastasijevic in Belgrade

As elections in Kosovo take place for the third time under international
auspices, Belgrade faces the same dilemma.

Should it meet international demands and urge Kosovo Serbs to vote, or,
hiding behind the reluctance of hard-line Serbs from northern Kosovo to
cooperate with the UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, tell Serbs their
future will be brighter if they avoid the multiethnic institutions UNMIK is
trying to build there.

In previous elections in Kosovo, all the political forces in Belgrade,
however reluctantly, united to encourage local Serbs to take part. This
time, Belgrade is divided.

Bolstered by appeals from the Serbian Orthodox Church, Prime Minister
Vojislav Kostunica remains firm that Kosovo Serbs should boycott the
election. On the other hand, President Boris Tadic (and Serbia and
Montenegro's foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic) have called on Serbs to

The Kosovo Serb elite has been divided ever since the international
community took over the protectorate. Nationalist opponents of Serb
participation in the election - both in Kosovo and in Belgrade - insist
engagement in Kosovo institutions equals recognition of the entity's
independence. This in turn only confuses the remaining Kosovo Serbs, who
remain traumatised by the wave of violence in March.

So a large turnout of Kosovo Serbs, along the lines of previous elections,
cannot be expected, though the community will still obtain ten guaranteed
seats in the Kosovo parliament, reserved for minorities. However, a poor
turnout will raise questions about the legitimacy of these representatives.

What lies behind the stubbornness of Kostunica is his obsessive
determination to "sell" the Serbian government's plan on the
decentralisation of Kosovo - adopted immediately after the March violence -
to the international community. Kostunica told the media a couple of weeks
ago that it would have to be abandoned if the Kosovo Serbs' participated in
the election.

In effect, he was signalling to the international community that unless it
accepted the plan he would call on the Kosovo Serbs to boycott the ballot.

The Serbian government's proposal shows the political elite in Belgrade
still believes it can treat the Kosovo issue as a sort of territorial
dispute, neglecting the genuine interests of the Serbs in the province.

The plan on which Kostunica stubbornly insists is, in fact, inapplicable. It
fails to take into account reality on the ground. It envisages the creation
of five ethnically clean entities, where Kosovo Serbs would have autonomy
and their own local government, courts and police forces.

Such an enterprise would resemble a concoction of the Israeli efforts to
settle Jews in the West Bank. Moreover, the formation of these autonomous
Serb enclaves in Kosovo is unfeasible without a mass transfer of the local
population, which the international community would never stomach.

Take, for example, the municipality of Gnjilane, where over 12,000 Serbs
still live in six entirely Serb, and 10 ethnically-mixed, villages, while in
the town itself there are no more than about 30 Serbs.

The Serb villages are scattered to the west, north and south of Gnjilane. To
form a compact "Serbian" region, about 20 Albanian villages would have to be
included in the autonomous region. Even so, some villages with a Serb
population would remain outside the proposed entity.

On top of this, the plan wrongly assumes that most of the 200,000 or so
displaced Serbs (this being the figure used in official reports) will rush
back to the province if these autonomous Serbian enclaves are established.

Such an assumption is wrong. Firstly, the total number of displaced Kosovo
Serbs is smaller than the figure used in the official reports.

According to figures obtained by the independent think-tank, the European
Stability Initiative, ESI, around 128,000 Serbs currently live in Kosovo.
Belgrade does not dispute this number. According to the 1991 census, around
194,000 Serbs and around 20,000 Montenegrins then resided there. This means
that there are not 200,000 but about 65,000 displaced Kosovo Serbs in Serbia
proper. Most of these fled Kosovo's urban areas, and many have now sold
their property in cities and towns like Pristina and Pec.

In other words, contrary to the deeply-rooted perception in Serbia, about
two-thirds of Kosovo's pre-war Serb population remains there. It is the
urban Serb population, with the exception of the northern Kosovska
Mitrovica, which has virtually vanished.

This figure is corroborated by the facts presented in the ESI report. These
show that of 63 Serb elementary schools in Kosovo, 47 are situated in
villages with less than 5,000 inhabitants, the exceptions being Mitrovica,
Kosovo Polje, Gracanica, Obilic, Lipljan, Kamenica, Vitina and Orahovac.

It is highly unlikely that the Serbs who left Kosovo's cities and towns will
ever be prepared to return to Kosovo and start a new life in a village.

Then again, the majority of remaining Serbs, living scattered throughout the
province, are farmers who have not moved. Also, again in contradiction to
the general public perception in Belgrade, most live in scattered
communities to the south of the Ibar river, which divides Mitrovica into
southern Albanian and northern Serbian sections.

The only place where the Serbian government's plan might succeed is
precisely in the north of Kosovo, where about 60,000 Serbs live, and
Albanians are a minority.

In addition, this northern area of Kosovo receives abundant assistance from
the Serbian government budget, the biggest recipients being the university
and hospital in Mitrovica. This area is, at the same time, the centre of
Serbian resistance to any integration into Kosovan institutions and is the
place where one most often hears threats about a division of the
protectorate if it were to gain independence.

This idea - of division - is shared by some political circles in Belgrade.
So there is room for real concern that the Serbian government's plan, which
is inapplicable to other parts of Kosovo, is actually a disguised proposal,
intended to divide the territory.

If this were the case, Belgrade seems prepared to show it would leave in the
lurch about 70,000 Serbs living scattered in the south and centre of Kosovo,
from Gracanica to Strpce, for the sake of making territorial gain.

The government in Belgrade needs to honestly reply to this question about
its priority in Kosovo. What comes first: the people - or territory?

Dushka Anastasijevic is a Vreme journalist and also works for the European
Stability Initiative in Belgrade.


American-Albanians appear to hope Kerry victory will put Kosovo back on the
foreign policy agenda.

By Stacy Sullivan in New York

As Albanians gear up to cast their ballots in Kosovo's upcoming elections,
their compatriots here are busy fundraising for politicians in the hope that
they may be able curry influence with Washington and draw more attention to

At a May fundraising event in New York City, the Albanian-American community
raised 510,000 US dollars for the Kerry campaign, a substantial sum of money
from an ethnic group that numbers roughly 500,000 people, and well above
what the Serbian lobby has raised.

"Albanian Americans are always very smart about supporting candidates so
that their concerns are heard," said David L. Phillips, a fellow at the
Council on Foreign Relations, who has been active in Democratic fundraising.

"They weighed in early and contributed a lot of money. Their motivation is
that Albanian issues have been seriously ignored by the Bush
administration," Phillips said.

Their hope, according to several campaign donors, is that a Kerry victory
would put Kosovo back on the foreign policy agenda.

Indeed, Albanian politicians in Kosovo, as well as officials at the United
Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, acknowledge that while the work of the
soon-to-be elected government and the newly-invigorated UN administration in
the protectorate will determine much about Kosovo's future, renewed and
vigorous US engagement in the region would play a vital role.

"It's no secret that a lot hinges on the US election," said a UN official in
Pristina. "We can do whatever we want here, but if America comes in and
wants something else, America gets it."

The fundraising efforts undertaken by the Albanian-American community appear
to be paying off. General Wesley Clark, who led NATO's bombing campaign
against Serb forces in 1999, and Richard Holbrooke, the former US envoy to
the Balkans - both of whom would likely receive posts in a Kerry
administration - were on hand to address the crowd at the fundraising event.
Both promised that the Kerry-Edwards administration would take a more active
role in determining Kosovo's future.

On its website, the Kerry campaign blasts the Bush administration for
ignoring the Balkans and lists Kosovo as one of its foreign policy concerns.
"Kosovo's future status should be decided as soon as possible...The people
of Kosovo must be able to determine their own future, including how they
want to be governed," it states.

"That's the way politics works in America," said Florin Krasniqi, who runs a
roofing company in Brooklyn and donated 2,000 dollars (the maximum
individual donation allowed by US law) to the Kerry campaign. "You give them
money and when they get elected, they pay you back."

Keenly aware of how to cultivate political influence, as well as how divided
the American electorate is, the Albanian-American community has also raised
money for the Bush campaign. On September 20, just after the Republican
National Convention, it held a Bush fundraiser in New York. Many of the same
donors who gave to the Kerry campaign attended and donated to Bush's

Neither the Bush campaign nor Albanian donors to it returned phone calls
requesting to know how much money was raised at the event - but officials at
the National Albanian American Council said the sum was considerably lower
than what the community raised for Kerry.

"They wanted to cover their back in case Bush is re-elected," Phillips said,
"but it's clear that their enthusiasm and hearts are not with the Bush

Several Republican donors from the Albanian community, who wished to remain
anonymous, agreed with Phillips' assessment. "I don't want Bush to win, but
if he does win, we don't want to be the people who didn't do anything for
him, so I made a donation. But I gave to the Kerry campaign too," said one
contributor from The Bronx.

Thus far, the Bush administration has yet to address the Kosovo question on
its foreign policy agenda.

Just as the Albanian community supported the Kerry campaign, the Democratic
Party has also aggressively courted its vote. George Kivork, the Kerry
campaign's national director for ethnic outreach, has made key officials in
the party available for interviews to the Albanian media in the US.
Holbrooke, former State Department spokesman James Rubin, John Edwards'
wife, Elizabeth Edwards, have all given interviews to Albanian radio
programmes in Boston and Chicago and to Illyria, a New York-based
Albanian-American newspaper.

For the past two weeks, the Kerry campaign has taken out full-page
advertisements in the newspaper.

The Bush campaign appears not to have even tried to court the Albanian vote.
Popular figures such as former senator Bob Dole, who visited Kosovo in the
early 1990s and introduced numerous resolutions in Congress condemning Serb
rule in the region, have not reached out to the community. Neither has John
McCain, once one of the Albanians most vocal Congressional advocates.

Stacy Sullivan is an IWPR senior editor and the author of Be Not Afraid, for
You Have Sons in America:How a Brooklyn Roofer Helped Lure the US into the
Kosovo War.