NEWS AND ANALYSIS - COUNTDOWN TO INDEPENDENCE
WELCOME TO IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, No. 522, October 20, 2004KOSOVO ELECTION SPECIALNEXT GOVERNMENT FACES MOUNTAIN OF EXPECTATIONSWhoever 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 PristinaNEW PARTIES SEEK TO LURE JADED VOTERSFor all the disillusionment with the old parties, newcomers may struggle to break through.By Zana Limani in PristinaCOMMENT: EQUAL AIRTIME RULE KILLS OFF DEBATEThe straightjacket forced on Kosovo's media since March has only worsened its condition.By Baton Haxhiu in PristinaCOMMENT: BELGRADE PLAN UNWORKABLEAutonomous enclaves cannot help most Kosovo Serbs who live scattered throughout the territory.By Duska Anastasijevic in BelgradeUS ALBANIANS PUT FAITH IN KERRYAmerican-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: www.iwpr.net ***************IWPR AFRICA REPORTS. 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Readers are urged to subscribe to IWPR's full range of electronic publications at: http://www.iwpr.net/sub_form.html****************** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net ***************NEXT GOVERNMENT FACES MOUNTAIN OF EXPECTATIONSWhoever 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 PristinaMore 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 Goranis.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, AAK.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.NEW PARTIES SEEK TO LURE JADED VOTERSFor all the disillusionment with the old parties, newcomers may struggle to break through.By Zana Limani in PristinaAs 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 years."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 sharply.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 said.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.COMMENT: EQUAL AIRTIME RULE KILLS OFF DEBATEThe straightjacket forced on Kosovo's media since March has only worsened its condition.By Baton Haxhiu in PristinaThe 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 tension.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 broadcasting.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 riots.The media, especially public television, have been transformed into chambers where journalists keep minutes of events, rather than actually reporting on them.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 deliberate.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 failures.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.COMMENT: BELGRADE PLAN UNWORKABLEAutonomous enclaves cannot help most Kosovo Serbs who live scattered throughout the territory.By Duska Anastasijevic in BelgradeAs 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 participate.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.US ALBANIANS PUT FAITH IN KERRYAmerican-Albanians appear to hope Kerry victory will put Kosovo back on the foreign policy agenda.By Stacy Sullivan in New YorkAs 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 Kosovo.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 coffers.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 administration."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.
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