On 11 June snap parliamentary elections were held after Kosovo's government fell due to a vote of no confidence. It was hoped that fresh polls would lead towards formation of a new stable government. The first attempt to form a coalition failed, however, and the country could be heading towards new elections. Meanwhile the strongly present international community in Kosovo is trying to push for a stable government in order to proceed with the dialogue with Belgrade and regional and European integration.
The long-time ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK, 34% of the vote) - with support of their former coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK, 25% of the vote) - is preserving the current governance system, including the existing social order and the political and economic institutions that it sustains. They lack incentive to reform Kosovo. The latest attempt by the PDK coalition, to appoint Ramush Haradinaj as Prime Minister, was however rejected by the LDK. The main opposition Self-Determinnation Movement (Vetëvendosje) was the big winner of the recent poll. They run on their own and obtained 27,5% of the vote (up from 13%).
Vetëvendosje, now the second-largest parliamentary group and the biggest single political party in Kosovo, hopes to form a minority government on its own with the support of other, smaller parties.The movement has become a symbol of opposition, through its disruptive actions in the previous parliament. Its parliamentarians released tear gas inside parliament and threw firebombs outside it to protest the deals with Montenegro and Serbia, issues that caused the previous government to spark the snap elections of June 2017. Vetëvendosje focuses on two issues that are typical for post-war Kosovo: firstly the tedious negotiations with Serbia concerning the internal organization and socio-political aspects of Kosovo. The fact that nothing is imposed on Serbia in return, is considered by them as unfair and harmful. Secondly, Vetëvendosje’s goal is to advance the national rights of Albanians, even discussing joining the Albanian state.
Role of international actors
UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999 established UNMIK (UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo) in order to deploy international civil and security presences in Kosovo, meant at the time to put an immediate end to violence. Included in this resolution was the substantial participation of NATO in the security presence, the establishment of an interim government, and political processes enabling self-government.
Resolution 1244 also founded the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) which operates under UNMIK. It assists Kosovo judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies in their progress and development towards a sustainable and accountable multi-ethnic justice system. Moreover, it ensures that these institutions are independent and free from political interference.
However, the UNMIK’s mission of creating a multi-ethnic liberal democracy has failed to a certain extent, since the maintenance of order and international oversight have been given preference over the rule of law. Even after Kosovo’s declaration of independence of February 2008, the international community’s desire to impose ethnic integration overruled the willingness to firstly understand the inter-community relations in Kosovo.
Stability before democracy
The EU decided that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and stability should be top priority; questions of democracy and the rule of law were considered as less important. In the summer of 2011, violent clashes erupted between Serbs, Kosovo police, and NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) in northern Kosovo, where Serbs are the majority. In response to the violent escalation under German leadership, and with support of the UK and the US, the EU became a serious policy actor. The EU-mediated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue was the result. While it was indeed necessary to put the dialogue first for a certain period of time to secure the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo – a precondition for sustainable democracy and rule of law – the West has underperformed in furthering democratization and the rule of law.
There are three possible ways out of the political deadlock: 1) fresh polls which could further increase the support of Vetëvendosje 2) a renewed deal between PDK and LDK pressured by the international community and 3) including Vetëvendosje in the governing coalition and pressuring them to drop some of their demands and rhetoric.