Kosovo Assembly Election - 2014-06-08
National elections took place in 2014. The ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), led by Hashim Thaci, could struggle to hold onto power, especially after two senior figures, Fatmir Limaj and speaker of the parliament Jakup Krasniqi, announced they were leaving the PDK to form a new party. Most of the economic policies in the country have been oriented toward sustainability of the public sector - which remains big and costly - while the severe presence of corruption, bureaucracy, informality and political instability discourged new domestic or foreign investments. A very strict visa regime makes it extremely difficult for Kosovans to leave the country.
Polls opened 08 June 2014 in Kosovo for a general election seen as a vital test for Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, and for the country's attempt to join the European Union. The 46-year-old former guerrilla leader turned politician has led Kosovo for seven years, overseeing its 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. Thaci faced a strong challenge from the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo, which is led by Isa Mustafa. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) had just 32 MPs and had been ruling with support from junior coalition parties and a minority Albanian party.
Two other important contenders were the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, and the nationalist Self-Determination Party. Observers expected a tight race between Thaci's center-left PDK and the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by former Pristina mayor Isa Mustafa.
Frustration with Kosovo's progress since independence ran high among many of its 1.8 million people who rank among Europe's poorest. Kosovo also had an unemployment rate of about 35 percent. The group Transparency International ranked Kosovo 111th in its 2013 corruption index. Thaci is under pressure from voters who are angry about corruption and a war crimes investigation that threatens to ensnare former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
For the first time since Kosovo's independence in 2008, Serbia encouraged ethnic Serbs to vote, a move seen as likley to help Blegrade's EU membership bid. Belgrade and Pristina came to an agreement in 2013 to normalize relations as a pre-condition for their bids to become members of the EU.
The legislature has 120 members who are elected for three-year terms. Of those, 100 seats are determined by proportional representation while 20 seats are reserved for lawmakers who represent national minorities. Those reserved seats include at least 10 for Serbs; four for Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians; three Bosniaks; two ethnic Turks; and one Gorani.
The debate to transform the country’s tiny security force into a full-standing army split the nation in the 08 June 2014 general election. It is unlikely that parliament would overcome objections to create a new military force in the Balkans. Kosovo Serbs spoke with one voice against the establishment of a full-standing army. Members of this community, who lost a bitter interethnic war in 1999 against the nation’s Albananian population, said a Kosovo army would be a direct threat to their security. “We think that the only armed force in Kosovo is NATO, and this shall not change. I must add that in the Balkans, there have been many fights and acts of war (…) we think it is very dangerous to create a military force of any kind,” said Vladeta Kostic, a member of Serbian parliament from Kosovo.
Kosovo already has a small civilian security force established to conduct crisis response and intervene in the case of natural disasters. Kosovar leaders who support the establishment of a full-standing army say that this 2,500-strong force, equipped with rifles and lightweight armoured vehicles, is already the embryo of a national army. “Kosovo has an army. It's in a developmental stage. It is evolving. (…) We are progressively moving towards an armed force, and our ambition is to become a member of NATO,” according to Ramush Haradinaj, a senior candidate and former guerilla leader.
The country has been ungovernable since the 2014 parliamentary elections. The largest opposition party, the center-left Vetevendosja (Self-Determination), is striving to unite with Albania. Three opposition parties in Kosovo agreed 10 June 2014 to unite and plan to form a government following the June 8 parliamentary election. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won the most votes in the snap election, but struggled to form a parliamentary majority. The emerging coalition included the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which placed second in the election, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) of former guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj, and a splinter group from Thaci's PDK.
According to the initial deal, Haradinaj would be prime minister. Haradinaj briefly served as prime minister in 2004-2005 before stepping down to stand trial for war crimes in The Hague. Haradinaj was twice acquitted by the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
But on 09 December 2014 former minister-in-exile Isa Mustafa was named prime minister, replacing former guerrilla commander Hashim Thaci, who became foreign minister. Denied a third consecutive term as prime minister, under the terms of the coalition deal Thaci would become president of Kosovo in 2016. Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and Mustafa's second-place Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) are bitter rivals with a history of sometimes deadly competition.
In August 2015 Kosovo's parliament approved the establishment of a tribunal for war crimes committed by Albanian fighters during the Kosovo War. Since 2011, an EU special investigation team has gathered substantial evidence against former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war and in the period immediately thereafter. Many parliamentarians resisted for a long time: In the first vote at the end of June, the two-thirds majority was not attained in the parliamentary vote. And the tribunal is euphemistically referred to as the "professional chamber" or the "office of the special prosecutor."
In the late 1990s, the Kosovo Liberation Army allegedly committed war crimes against the Serbian minority, the Roma and so-called Albanian collaborators during and after the Kosovo conflict, asserted the Swiss diplomat. The list of crimes includes murders, abductions, expulsions, rape, narcotics trade and the destruction of churches. But what really made the headlines was Marty's controversial accusation that KLA fighters harvested the organs of Serbian captives and sold the body parts on the black market.
Opposition parties, led by the Self-Determination Party and the Alliance for Kosovo's Future Party, maintain that the agreement with Serbia, which grants ethnic Serbs in Kosovo greater local powers and the possibility of funding from Belgrade, represents a threat to the country's independence. The opposition parties demanded cancellation of Friday's session unless the government overturned a European Union-brokered agreement with Serbia to give more power to Serb-dominated areas in Kosovo and an agreement with Montenegro on border demarcation. They also reject a border agreement reached in Vienna with neighboring Montenegro that they argue causes Kosovo to lose territory.
The opposition mounted strong protests against the government following the signing of agreements on the normalization of relations with Serbia under EU sponsorship in October. While the ruling coalition enjoys a strong majority, the opposition managed to stall parliamentary activity. This risked delaying important legislation, including amendments to the Law on Public Financial Management and the 2016 budget—critical to the government’s reform program and Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The situation in parliament also risks damaging investor confidence at a time when a foreign consortium is seeking financing for Brezovica, a major tourism investment project.
Opposition politicians in Kosovo used tear gas again inside the parliament building October 23, 2015 to protest agreements with Serbia and Montenegro. Before the session, the opposition also threw tear gas near the office of Speaker Kadri Veseli, forcing the evacuation of parliamentary staff. Veseli postponed the parliamentary session. No injuries were reported and no one was arrested. Hundreds of opposition protesters gathered outside parliament as police in riot gear surrounded the building and other government buildings. This tear gas incident was the third in two weeks. Deputies of both parties said that they are left with no choice, but to block parliamentary proceedings until disputed issues are resolved.
The PDK and its coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo, failed to come up with convincing proposals to solve the country's fundamental problems, nor for that matter had Vetevendosja or any other opposition party, such as Alliance for the Future of Kosovo or Nisma. Once again, on 19 February 2016 opposition deputies used tear gas to drive their fellow lawmakers out of a session of parliament. The protest was one of many in recent months as the opposition demanded the government's resignation.
On 26 February 2016, Kosovo's parliament elevated Foreign Minister Hashin Thaci, the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), to the presidency. It was one of the few positions Thaci had not held. He was one of the most important leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the war against Serbia and was prime minister from independence in early 2008 straight through to the end of 2014.
Thaci is seen as an autocrat who is rarely willing to compromise. He is said to exacerbate conflicts rather than resolve them. Thaci is also suspected of corruption and connections to organized crime. His name is associated with contract killings during the war and also appeared in a European Council report on organ trafficking.
Protesters hurled stones at the Kosovo parliament as new President Hashim Thaci was being sworn in on 07 April 2016. Opposition parties boycotted the ceremony, underlining the political crisis in the country. The opposition in the majority ethnic Albanian country accuses Thaci of helping to clinch an EU-brokered deal in 2015 that gives a Serb minority more power over local government decisions. Thaci led an insurgency against Serbian forces in 1998-99. He was elected president by parliament in late February, despite protests, to serve a five-year term, a largely ceremonial role. Thaci was Kosovo’s prime minister when it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move Belgrade has not recognized.
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