By Kaltrina Beqiri (Independent scholar, graduated at the University of Prishtina)
Only sixteen months after his last electoral success, former Prime Minister Albin Kurti has managed to lead his party, Self-determination Movement (LVV), to an even greater success.
After the fall of Kurti’s government in March 2020, his junior coalition partner was able to form a new government. But Avdullah Hoti’s cabinet did not last long. After the appeal made by LVV in the Constitutional Court, seeking interpretation for the vote of a minority MP, who was convinced by a final decision of the court, on 21st December 2020 the Constitutional Court declared the vote of the parliamentary member to have been invalid, because of his criminal offense conviction. Since his vote was necessary to be able to for the government in the first place, Hoti’s cabinet was left as illegitimate and a call for early legislative elections had to be issued.
In January 2021, despite the pandemic, it was decided that the Kosovo’s February elections should be held on February 14th, i.e. on Valentine’s Day. These elections became a heart’s matter for the Kosovars.
The electoral campaign
The electoral campaign in times of the global pandemic was not far different from the former normal campaigns. All parties organised large meetings with their supporters to show the massive support they have. As NISMA knew that these elections will be problematic to be handled alone, the seeked support from PDK to get together in one election lis. But PDK refused their offer, since they did not want to be associated with themes of war. After PDK withdrawal for a coalition, NISMA started to base their campaign to spread attacks against PDK, which did not make any sense, since PDK themeselves were in opposition on the last elections. Eitherway, the results speak for themselves. AAK focused its campaign on the nationalistic card. At the beginning of 2021, former Prime Minister Haradinaj stated that if Kosovo will not be part of NATO soon, then Kosovo must redirect its oriention on unification with Albania as a single country. This slogan proved itself to be very efficient in the past, as it was used by LVV, but not this time. With the safe old trick, LDK wanted to play an old strategy on using President Ibrahim Rugova name for electoral interest. But ist supporters did not want to get plaid by this card again. As all parties focused their campaign either against their political opponent or storytelling about the glory past, PDK tried to focus on „party recovery“. Their program and campaign was based on economic recovery of the state, unfortunately the majority of the voters in Kosovo see them as ones that state needs recovery from. The clear winner of these elections did not have a structured or intensive campaign, exactly because they were sure about the election results outcome.
With a record turnout of over 815,000 voters (45.5%), the highest in the short history of this newly created country, Kosovars turned their hearts in the direction of complete change. LVV doubled its results from the last October 2019 elections, from a total of 221,000 votes to a record high of over 378,000. No party had ever managed to obtain such amount of votes in Kosovo, not even during the first two free and fair elections in 2001 and 2004 when the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by the charismatic Ibrahim Rugova, was struggling to obtain independence from Serbia.
In clear contrast, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK),the runner-up in the last Sunday elections with just 137,000 votes, lost more than 48,000 votes. With the absence of the two central figures of PDK / former party leaders, President Hashim Thaci and former Parliament speaker Kadri Veseli, got charged for war crimes from Specialist Chambers established in Hague and could not provide any significant contribution on campaign from distance. As a result, PDK faced hardships and difficulties for supporters mobilization.
The governing party, and historically the most important party in the country, LDK came only third losing almost 200,000 votes: the biggest electoral defeat since 2001.It seems that in times of pandemic the reign did not do well; citizens accused them for incompetence and mismanagement and the party faced tremendous domestic clashes especially with their former candidate for Prime Minister Vjosa Osmani. In addition, Osmani left the party and entered the LVV list. As Vjosa Osmani, the most voted woman in Kosovo’s history, was clearly against the formation of the new government under Hoti’s lead (co-party member) it was clear that her place at the party will not be stable anymore. Since the electoral campaign of 2019, Vjosa Osmani got closer to LVV, as she saw the potential of their supporters and the need of change the supporters of any party wanted. It was impossible for her to have a lead position in LDK, so she tried her luck with LVV.
The AAK has also lost votes, from almost 99,000 votes in 2019 to just 58,000 in 2021. The loss of power in 2019 did not bring too much luck during the 2021 elections. And last but not least, NISMA (Social Democratic Initiative) whose votes were not enough for parliamentary entry, fell from just under 42,000 votes in 2019 to 20,000 in 2021.
A new Bosnian party called Ujedinjena Zajednica-Adrijana Hodzic, even though created recently in 2021, became the most voted Bosnian party from this community municipalities. Members of this party who will sit at the parliament, will take their seats as Bosnian community representatives, but will surely be dictated by Belgrade, conform Serbia’s interest.
As I write this article, LVV has almost 48% of the votes. This amount does not even include the vote cast by the Kosovar diaspora via postal vote, which will definitively increase their support even further. As a result, LVV will have an absolute (most probably even constitutional) majority in Parliament, allowing them to form for the first time ever a single-party government and, eventually, change the 2008 Constitution.
No doubt, Kosovars voted for LVV, but certainly not because of their ideology. Twenty-one years after the war, characterized by countless corruption scandals, high unemployment and nepotism by a group of unchanged elites, they finally wanted change. A change that was initiated, somehow, during the last 2019 elections, but was cut short with the collapse of Kurti’s government after just 50 days in power. He had not enough time to implement his big promises, and that is exactly what centralized his discourse and boosted his popularity when he returned to opposition.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Kurti is the change that everyone expects. What is certain, is that he is currently holding the hopes of almost half of the Kosovars in his hands. It is also not clear if absolute majority in parliament is good for such a young democracy as Kosovo. One thing is certain, however, this government is expected to last for its 4-year mandate.
Photo source: https://www.voanews.com/europe/vetevendosje-marks-landslide-victory-kosovos-general-election