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Kosovo’s main opposition party splits

In December last year reports on internal fights within the Kosovo’s main opposition Vetëvendosje party have been confirmed with 12 parliamentarians (out of 32 seats) leaving the party.  They have established the Group of Independent Deputies after disagreements with party Leader Albain Kurti over the future of the party. The MP’s stated that they will focus on the advancement of welfare in Kosovo: “parliament is the ideal setting to tackle issues such as unemployment […] the need for a proper safety net and welfare policies and […] addressing the issues that are inhibiting good governance’’ Dardan Sejdiu, the chair of the Group of Independent Deputies stated. The Mayor of capital Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti, has also left the party.

Radical opposition
Vetëvendosje was founded by Kosovan activists Albin Kurti who wanted to offer an ideology based and policy driven alternative to the corrupted political parties that were established after the war. The party developed a leftist character, becoming the most prominent opposition party. Their main political goal is to hold on to Kosovan territorial integrity, while sometimes advocating an unification with Albania. Running alone at the 2017 parliamentary election they obtained 27,5 % of the votes and came in second after a coalition of parties around Democratic Party of Kosovo (33,7% of the votes). As during previous government formation the party was left aside.

One of the reasons for their political isolation is their  activist and anti-democratic behavior:  Vetëvendosje protests and demonstrations turned violent and parliamentarians have been throwing tear gas in the parliament, most recently on 21 March 2018.   

Ideology in Kosovo
In Kosovo ideology and policy development don’t play an important role in politics and the public debate. Prior to the country’s independence in 2008, Kosovo developed a political culture that focused on the state-building process with the ultimate goal of independence.  In general political leaders and parties are quite pragmatic in order to hold on to power. Vetëvendosje was often credited with being slightly different from this political culture. In its political manifesto is proclaims that it wants social reform.

Vetëvendosje controversial approach to politics are the likely causes for the rupture in the party. In addition, the leader of the breakaway faction, Dardan Sejdiu, stated that the group had ideological differences with the party. One of the main issues was the leadership of Kurti and his political approach ‘The Group of Independent MPs […] is going to focus on changing the parliamentary dynamic’’ said Sejdiu. On March 16th the group didn’t join the noise created by Vetëvendosje MP’s by wrapping paper to disturb the debate on border deal with Montenegro. Instead they just joined the debate.

One way the group claims to be different than VV is their view on party democracy. Sejdiu opposed the idea that only one man can lead and dominate a party. According to the MP’s do they all share the same progressive ideological view. “We believe that the foremost responsibility of the assembly is to build a legal framework that ensures a more just and equal society.”

Sources: Balkan Insight I Balkan Insight II PI