Elections in Kosovo: Moving Toward Democracy?
Elections in Kosovo: Moving Toward Democracy?
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
The best deal Kosovo and Serbia can get
The best deal Kosovo and Serbia can get
Report / Europe & Central Asia 3 minutes

Elections in Kosovo: Moving Toward Democracy?

In the fall of 2000, for the first time in their history, the people of Kosovo are being promised the opportunity to participate in democratic, internationally supervised local elections.

Executive Summary

In the fall of 2000, for the first time in their history, the people of Kosovo are being promised the opportunity to participate in democratic, internationally supervised local elections.  The elections offer the people of Kosovo the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democracy.  They also present the international mission[fn]The term “international mission” is used throughout the present report to refer to the collection of international organisations formally charged withe responsibilities in Kosovo under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and NATO’s Kosovo-Force (K-FOR).Hide Footnote  in Kosovo with a test of its resolve to overcome the political and practical problems associated with holding elections in a territory still suffering from the physical and the political scars of war.

The first step in the elections – a civil registration of the Kosovo population that is scheduled to end July 15 – seems to be proceeding relatively well, with the important exception that few Serbs are participating.  Some other key institutional elements of the election have yet to be adopted, including the municipal government structures to which local candidates will be elected and the proposed election system.  The Central Election Commission (CEC) is responsible for creating the rules that govern the election process; its recent decision to expand its political code of conduct to include rules against the political violence and intimidation which exist in some parts of Kosovo is to be welcomed.  

For elections to succeed the international community will have to adopt a tough, pro-active approach but, at the same time, deal with problems in a way that reflects a sensitivity to local conditions and does not create new problems while attempting to solve existing ones.  Kosovo needs a regulation for the conduct of the media, but the one recently introduced by the OSCE needs to focus more narrowly on punishing media actions that incite violence or ethnic hatred, to be limited in duration to the election period, and to be implemented by a senior, independent international media figure.  Financial disclosure requirements – limited to parties, party leaders, and top candidates should also be adopted – as an important factor in limiting the influence of crime and corruption in the electoral system, which most Kosovars[fn]The term “Kosovars” is used in the present report to refer to all Kosovo residents or voters generally, regardless of their ethnicity.  The expressions “Kosovo Albanian”  or “Kosovo Serb” are used to describe ethnically Albanian or Serb Kosovars.Hide Footnote  see as a major impending problem.

Of the 25 Albanian political parties which have registered to participate in the elections, only three – the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by Ibrahim Rugova, the Party of Democratic Kosovo (PDK) led by former KLA leader Hashim Thaci, and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) led by former KLA fighter Ramuz Haradinaj – have registered candidates through most of Kosovo’s thirty municipalities.   Kosovo Serbs have so far not participated in the election preparations; only a handful have registered and no Serb political parties are running.  The international mission must maintain its stance that the elections will go forward even if the Serbs continue their boycott, but it should also consider measures to include Serbs in the municipal structures provided those Serbs accept the legitimacy of the democratic structures being set up in Kosovo by the international community.   

When the international mission in Kosovo began discussing elections Albanians made it clear they wanted an early Kosovo-wide poll.  The international mission chose instead to hold municipal elections first, in a strategy aimed at building democracy from the ground up.  Delays in election preparations – even at the beginning of July no date for the municipal poll has been formally set -- reinforced a perception that the international community lacks a strategy for Kosovo’s future.  Resentment is growing among Kosovo Albanians over the international community’s slowness in creating interim democratic structures.  Long-standing Albanian unease over the perceived weaknesses of their international rulers risks turning more sharply toward anger unless the international community moves quickly to involve Kosovars in their own democratic self-rule.  If would have been preferable for the international community to hold Kosovo-wide elections in 2000; with this now unlikely the UN should announce its intention to hold Kosovo-wide elections early in 2001 at the same time that it announces the date for the municipal elections.

While the reputations of the United Nations and OSCE for handling politically sensitive missions, and of Milosevic as a troublemaking force to be reckoned with, will be affected by the outcome of the municipal elections, it is the Kosovo Albanians who have the most to win or lose. In contrast to Bosnia immediately after the war, political trends in post-war Kosovo seem to be moving in favour of moderate political leaders and parties and away from the party most closely associated with the war-time KLA.  That does not argue for further delays in voting, but for sustained effort to make progress in overcoming the problems that this report identifies.

Pristina/Washington/Brussels, 7 July 2000

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