A coalition led by three parties that trace their
origins to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) won a plurality in
Kosovo’s parliamentary election yesterday. Running for the first
time together, the winning KLA coalition has promised the prime
minister’s post to Ramush Haradinaj, who was acquitted twice by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The Self-Determination Movement (Vetëvendosje), which advocates a
referendum on union with Albania, came in second, with former Prime
Minister Mustafa’s coalition a close but disappointing third.
Ramush was serving as prime minister in 2005 when
ICTY first indicted him. He resigned and went to The Hague to defend
himself, successfully. He was indicted again in 2011 and acquitted
again in 2012. French authorities detained him in January of this
year at the request of Serbia but freed him in April. His
appointment as prime minister will complicate relations with Serbia,
whose laws he unquestionably broke during Kosovo’s armed rebellion
in 1998 and 1999, and Montenegro, as he for several years has
opposed demarcation of its already agreed border with Kosovo.
Ramush’s brother and supporter Daut was convicted in 2002 of
murdering members of a KLA rival group. He was also involved in a
short-lived but violent Albanian insurgency in Macedonia in 2001.
The emergence of a KLA government will complicate
an already complicated situation. It will harden attitudes among
Serbs, both within Kosovo and in Belgrade, where a former deputy
prime minister to a Milosevic-supporting government is now
president, elected on a pro-European Union platform. The EU and US
will try to revive implementation of a Brussels agreement that
provides for reintegration of Serb-majority northern Kosovo with the
rest of the country, in exchange for more Serb autonomy. Ramush has
the kind of authority required to reach such an agreement with the
Serbs, but he will want in exchange needed Serb support for
conversion of Kosovo’s lightly armed security forces into a small
Having more than doubled its vote in percentage
terms, Self-Determination is also a big winner and will be the new
government’s main opposition. Using so far non-lethal violence both
on the streets and in parliament to make its points, it opposes
Kosovo statehood, preferring to make the country a part of Albania,
and the talks with Belgrade. It also criticizes both the winning
coalition and the outgoing government for corruption and abuse of
power, a charge that resonates strongly in a country disappointed in
the economic benefits of almost a decade of independence.
Self-Determination’s mayor of Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti, has acquired
a good reputation for managing the city well.
The big loser in this election is the political
party derived from Kosovo’s peaceful protest movement of the 1990s,
led then by Ibrahim Rugova. Coming in third, its fragile ad hoc
coalition will have a difficult time influencing events in a
political scenario dominated by the out-sized personalities of
Ramush, Self-Determinatio leader Albin Kurti, and President Thaci,
another former KLA leader.
Many will feel trepidation about domination of
Kosovo by former KLAers and Self-Determination, both of which are
led by consummate showmen. They seem more likely to compete for
attention, often appealing to pan-Albanian and anti-Serb
nationalist sentiment, than for prizes in good governance. But we
all need to respect the outcome of truly democratic elections, which
these seem to have been. Ramush and his government can always prove
their critics wrong. I wish them well in meeting the real needs in
today’s Kosovo: economic and social improvement as well as good
relations with its neighbors.