Nestled in the belly of the Balkans lies a landlocked nation whose soil represents the final successful revolution of the 20th century. On Sunday, the 6th of October, the people of Kosovo will head to the polls for the fifth time to engage in an exercise of democracy and independence which so many of their countrymen bled and died for. However, this vote is not a vote directly resulting in their stand for liberation from their former tyrant, nor is it done in demonstration to the world to win the on-going struggle for recognition. These elections are symptomatic of the virus which war and re-birth too often infects newly liberated governments and societies with; corruption.
Sunday’s snap election was triggered by a series of events which have rattled Kosovo’s relatively new and young political institution of governance. The Kosovar parliament was disbanded in August; a product of a series of social, legal and political events. Over the past several months, Kosovo has lost a Prime Minister and then a functioning parliamentary body. These elections, it was originally thought, were going to occur in September. However, for a myriad of convoluted political excuses and reasons, that did not occur.
In July, Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, once hailed by the West as a force of stability for Kosovo, felt it was best that he resign from his public role due to war crimes inquiries regarding the Kosovar Revolution. It was Haradinaj’s role with the special unit known as the ‘Black Eagles’ and his leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which continues to haunt him. Haradinaj’s role in the revolution begins in 1996, before the actual commencement of the conflict, and continued up to his public service.
Twice acquitted of war crimes, Haradinaj continues to be an object of interest to prosecutors, in the duty to continue the investigation of war crimes committed during Kosovo’s 1998-99 struggle for freedom. This time, Haradinaj was summoned for questioning to The Hague by the newest judicial apparatus for crimes committed during the Revolution, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO). Unlike his previous legal matters, the SPO and any indictment stemming from it, is governed by Kosovar law.
Following Haradinaj’s resignation, opposition parties in the parliament demanded a quick return to the polls or a disbanding of the legislature; in favor of starting over again. This was seen primarily as a political move, as none of the opposition parties possessed a majority strong enough to assume control over the existing body. Thus, late in August, the existing parliament was dissolved and Sunday’s general elections scheduled. However, the October 6th elections will be more of a formality, as no single party is expected to win the numbers needed to form a new government. The negotiations among the parties to form coalitions in an attempt to rebuild the crisis-ridden and struggling nation began immediately. Success, of course, is a determinate of the calculus between the ratios of greed, tyranny, and liberty.
Other than the Serbian party, which occupied 10 seats, Kosovo’s six primary parties, which made up the now-dissolved legislature, will strategically align themselves into coalitions in the hopes of securing a majority. Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) is expected to; once again, form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSD); both center-right ideologies and occupied a total of 24 seats. Also, there is the anticipated coalition between the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the nation’s largest party and ideologically center-right, and the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA), a center-left organization; they totaled 31 seats.
Likewise, the Self-Determination Movement (VV), considered the largest opposition party in Kosovo and center-left ideologically, and the broadly center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the nation’s oldest and second-largest, also are expected to form a coalition. The ideological wide reach of this coalition positions it as an early favorite. Predictions suggest that if this coalition can be successfully formed, it will receive the necessary majority in Sunday’s election; which is consistent with the fact that they collectively held the previous majority of 46 seats.
However, that is not to say that this coalition would represent truth and justice either. Political instability always leads to far greater social issues. Pending success, the LDK’s choice of Prime Minister is Vjosa Osmani. Osmani has had a very successful career in Kosovo politics, and essentially has dedicated her life to a globally recognized independent Kosovo. Too many times though, best intentions can also be misleading. The political buzzwords of nationalism, justice, equality, amongst others, have been perverted and manipulated throughout history.
Though qualified for the role of Prime Minister, and exceedingly educated, one of the primary foundations which, as she has stated, that would make her the right choice; she’s a woman. Osmani has reasoned that “[i]n more than 90 percent of cases it is men who are involved in corruption. A woman sees the state and how to take care of our citizens completely differently,”.
Given the fact that Osmani was educated in the United States, she would be very well versed in how to re-purpose and re-direct hate, especially in a country rife with it, through a funnel for personal gain. Whether this will serve the nation positively, is as unlikely as any other political agenda being presented. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.” Whether her political future as Prime Minister and that of Kosovo’s in general coalesce will be determined on October 6th, nevertheless though, her reasoning is critically important for Kosovars to contemplate.
The pivotal and central requisite for a functioning democratic system is an informed citizenry. The very first institution which a new democracy should implement and perfect is education, not capitalism. This is a grave error every new democracy makes and one which has contributed greatly to most of Kosovo’s critical issues. Shamefully, it is also one that is being exploited.
A 2019 research project, released in March, conducted by The Prishtina Institute for Political Studies (PIPS), International politics and political parties, concluded, amongst other things, nearly half of the Kosovars surveyed do not even know what the terms ‘center’, ‘right’, and ‘left’ represent or mean politically. Given the fact that four out of six parties share the same center-right ideology and together represent a significant majority of 74 seats, yet still cannot seem to work together, tends to suggest parties are using these nomenclatures purely as safeguards.
The PIPS project also measured the trust Kosovars have in their current political options. Nearly half of Kosovars expressed a lack of or no trust at all in any of the options which they have in Sunday’s election. Further, when those who stated that they have no basis upon which to trust any party are considered, the percentage sky-rockets to nearly 70%. It would logically follow, that this attitude will be directly reflected in voter turnout. When a significant percentage of the country cannot or does not vote, democracy simply cannot and will not function.
Further, while PIPS found that nearly half of Kosovars place no trust in their political parties, it also found that nearly half of Kosovars identify with either the LDK or VV parties. Two parties which, essentially, represent the full spectrum of political ideology; LDK is broadly center-right and opposition party VV is center-left. Interestingly, as this Survey was released in March, these two parties are forming a coalition for Sunday’s election. However, it’s what these statistics, and not these parties, represent which is most telling.
Ideally, the reasoning for these two parties, or most accurately this coalition, to be the people’s favorite would represent a desire, on behalf of the people, to remove an ideological singularity which only produces a political fog that solely serves to cloud the focus of governance. However, it could also be that voters are simply bringing it all to the table to see what works. Finally, as most Kosovars do not even know what political ideologies actual are, this coalition’s reach and scope could essentially void the issue, and voters are simply identifying with parties that superficially address social realities and not political ones. This would account for Osmani’s gender-based foundation and stance.
To say that Kosovo’s instability is purely a product of inexperience mixed with a lack of administrative acumen would be to suggest though that 100% of all those who are elected and work in Kosovo’s political system desire those positions for national gain as opposed to personal. The reality is that Kosovo’s political problems, and the October 6th election, extend far beyond the halls of governance and onto every street corner and into every home.
The nation has been struggling with high and excessive unemployment for years. Currently, it is reported that a third of Kosovars are unemployed. Additionally, those lucky enough to be employed, cite poor wages which simply do not reflect a basic and necessary standard of living. According to Kosovo’s Agency of Statistics, in 2018, the average wage was approximately 550 Euros a month; placing it in the bottom half of the Balkan region.
The average salary of Kosovo’s blood and sweat workforce represents only a fraction of what its elected servants earn. Haradinaj was the highest-paid head-of-state in the Balkans, receiving around 3000 Euros a month. Diametrically opposite though are the hard-working citizens maintaining the offices and conference rooms used to govern the nation; some of who are receiving less than 200 Euros for the same period. Kosovars complain that they are being paid under or in breach of the required minimum wage matrix, 170 / 135 Euros per month for persons above/below the age of 35.
Kosovo’s Private Sector Trade Union states that wage laws are only one of the numerous violations which companies are committing with impunity. Everything from unsafe working conditions, no employment contracts between the company and workforce, and a lack of or unsafe equipment complaints are commonplace. All of that, however, is circumvented by the overarching complaint of the near impossibility of obtaining employment, which many allege requires either a bribe or a relationship with a government official; or both.
Therein lies the most prevalent virus which infects the Earth today; corruption. Amazingly, often time the world’s poorer nations result in some of the wealthiest politicians. As political roles are becoming exceedingly profitable livelihoods, Kosovo’s government is growing at a faster rate than nearly any other enterprise in the country; except of course organized crime. Political corruption and organized crime is a species of greed that elevates a cardinal sin to concentrated evil. If greed were a disease, organized crime and corruption are AIDS.
Part of this pandemic derives from exploiting and manipulating the act of revolution and liberation into a crucible of demented and perverted opportunity. While citizens bleed and die for the freedom of a new democracy, the powers-that-be prepare for the inevitable syndication of corruption which is bore from the immediate implementation of inexperienced capitalism. This scenario stems from the ignorance and disillusion that democracy requires capitalism to exist and function. It does not, at least not a new and young democracy.
The most critical element towards the success of a new democracy is social stability, which includes economic stability. Something the common Kosovar has experienced very little of. However, unlike virtually every other Balkan nation, Kosovo possess far more factors which, if fostered and nurtured correctly, positively influence the calculus for success.
Kosovo is not only Europe’s youngest democracy; it is the youngest nation in Europe, demographically speaking. With a population of 1.8 million, the average age of Kosovars is 29. That youthful generation contains an ever-increasing percentage of individuals attending university or having graduated; with an over-whelming majority showing interests in business, law, or STEM degrees. Additionally, Kosovo is a Euro nation which places it in a far superior economic position than that of nearly all of its neighbors.
The Kosovar Revolution, as was the greater Yugoslavia struggle for independence, did have a somewhat malevolent side. Primarily due to timing, the fact that Serbia is a Christian nation and Kosovo, as well as Bosnia, are primarily Muslim permitted many to conclude that the conflict was religious. Also, the fact that Sarajevo and Kosovo became the epicentres of the war led to that reasoning. This made the Balkans a go-to stop for many jihadists as Afghanistan had ended. As a direct result of that, some in the region became radicalized, and thus have moved onto Iraq and Syria.
Fast forward a generation, and one of the most substantial contemporary international issues, which also represents a significant nexus between the future of human rights and justice, is what to do with the human mess left over from decades of war. Kosovo, unlike nearly any other nation on Earth, is handling it quite effectively and efficiently. Kosovo is holding their responsibility while possessing the wisdom and insight to understand that there lies innocence on both sides of the issue. Thus, Kosovo is repatriating more women and children than many other nations on Earth. Also, Kosovo has one of the most successful programs for rehabilitating those jihadists who are amenable to it.
The totality of all of these factors creates a reality that evidences Kosovo should be one of the most promising and growing societies and marketplaces on the continent. It is not and one of the most significant root causes is political corruption and organized crime.
To believe that Sunday’s elections will solve those problems is naive and obtuse. Whether the election will adequately address all the issues which Kosovars need addressed is highly unlikely. If this election will create and foster, or at least provide for, an environment to nurture the asset which is Kosovo is a best-case scenario.
On Sunday, the Kosovar Revolution will continue and the people will write another chapter in their struggle for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; three things that no matter what Sunday’s results are, the wrong people in Kosovo will keep and continue to enjoy.