New parties on political scene of Kosovo

Zijadin GASHI

WED, 03 MAY 2000

Pristina, 21 April, 2000 - Just six months before the scheduled first free local elections in Kosovo, the political scene is profoundly shaken. In Kosovo, with its more than two million inhabitants, there are presumably 26 political parties which are waiting to be registered, but their actual number will be determined only after they are entered into the register in the office for registration of political parties with OSCE.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe determined conditions for registration of political parties among the most important of which is the one which demands that in order to be registered parties must have at least four thousand members. It is widely believed that this condition can be met by only a few political parties and that many of them will be forced to create coalitions or merge into a single subject (the phenomenon of parties with two factions but with the same name). But, new political parties are still being founded in the meantime. They are headed or organised even by former commanders of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who have nowadays changed the struggle at the front for the political front. These parties which are directly headed by former local commanders of KLA discontented by the policy pursued by their former political leader Hashim Thaci wish to bring something new to the local political scene.

The first who has founded a party of former officers of KLA was Naim Maloku, himself a former high officer, known as a moderate officer and politician. In the phase of establishment of the party called the Liberal Centre of Kosovo with which he wished to bring the two extremes of politics in a single Centre, he tried to gather around himself a few political subjects and known persons from public life counting also on a certain number of members of the Democratic League of Kosovo (DSK) who were discontented with the policy of Ibrahim Rugova in his party.

However, the press in Kosovo devoted much more attention to establishment of the political Alliance of Ramush Hajradinaj, former commander of KLA for the region of Dukaxhin during the war and after formation of the protection troops of Kosovo, its deputy commander. He has already taken off the uniform of protection forces of Kosovo and initiated establishment of what he calls a political league called the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. In this Alliance Hajradinaj predicts that he will gather around himself not only the portion of the citizens who support him but also various citizens’ associations which have so far been non-political, but also as the most interesting for him, numerous political subjects in Kosovo. Based on these announcements, this Alliance should bring two main novelties on the political scene of Kosovo. The first is that he has offered all ethnic groups and parties which gather minority communities and others to join this Alliance, and the other is that he has already gathered former best known politicians such as Mahmut Bakali and Azem Vlasi who held high offices in former Yugoslavia. The latter novelty is specially stressed because in the political reality of Kosovo the newly established parties mostly advocate independence of Kosovo, they are headed by new leaders and do not give a chance to former officials of Kosovo. Hajredinaj has abandoned these old conceptions and what is even more important with these moves, as local analysts believe, wishes to disassociate himself from the phenomenon which is highly present in Balkan and Albanian policy – revenge/retaliation. Apart from the old political capital Hajradinaj has also new capital around him. Political parties which he wishes to see in the Alliance (among the most important ones the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo which is believed to be the third in Kosovo by the number of its members, and the National Movement for Liberation of Kosovo which is assumed to rank the fourth) mostly have young membership. With the newly created Alliance his objective is to become the political rival to the biggest parties such as DSK and the Party for Democratic Progress of Kosovo. In fact, by relying on neutrality, by opening the doors to all minority communities, to the whole spectre of the rightists, the centre and the leftists, as well as to former officials of Kosovo, his ambition is not only to seriously endanger the rival parties but to get the better of them.

After the end of the war and dissolution of the parallel institutions in Kosovo, establishment of joint interim structures along with the Civilian Mission in Kosovo was carried out by three political parties: DSK of Ibrahim Rugova (known in the world as a moderate politician) as the biggest party, Party for Democratic Progress of Kosovo of Hashim Thaci (former political leader of KLA) the second biggest party, and the United Democratic Movement of Rexhep Qosja who is better known as an intellectual and whose party is small. These three parties have represented Kosovo ever since the conference in Rambouillet and on that basis they nowadays participate in joint administration with UNMIK. After the war in Kosovo it was expected that the structures which resulted from the war would unite in a single political trend, but that has not happened.

Transformation of KLA went in two directions – towards formation of the political party headed by Thaci, and towards creation of the protection corps of Kosovo. Thaci’s joining the joint agencies along with the UN administration contributed to softening of his policy, to taming him, due to which a part of his former comrades from the ranks of the KLA disassociated themselves from his policy.

Until recently Rugova’s DSK and Thaci’s PDPK were considered to be parties which had no rivals in the race for winning support of the voters, but in a way they are threatened after regrouping of minor political parties in the coalitions and the Alliance. According to analyses and developments, before free local elections Kosovo will have three major political coalitions. Those who will remain outside these coalitions risk to be left without anything. The first grouping has just begun – the initiative of Ramush Hajredinaj who enjoys unreserved support of Bajram Kosumi, president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo in the Alliance for Future of Kosovo and which is expected to be joined by another five to eight political parties and other citizens’ associations. Feeling the danger, the Party for Democratic Progress of Kosovo of Hashim Thaci restarted the long ago opened talks but interrupted in the meantime with the Party of United Democratic Movement of Rexhep Qosja also about creation of a coalition.

On the other hand, the currently largest party, DSK of Ibrahim Rugova – has attracted again the Albanian Christiabn Democratic Party of Kosovo of Mark Krasniqi, member of the Academy, by giving it one of its departments in interim administration, and it is also keeping close contact with the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo of Ms. Kaqusha Jashari. These three parties have had close relations before and they established together parallel institutions in Kosovo at the time of Milosevic’s rule.

OSCE is on the point of preparing a new code which requires decent behavior of political parties during election campaign, and until then numerous agreements on joint running in the elections will be signed, with new profiles and new positions and new stands, which will change the whole political scene in Kosovo. Political parties of minority communities have a small number of members in comparison with the large parties of the Albanians and that is why the possibility exists that the Party of Democratic Action headed by Numan Balic which gathers Bosniacs and the People’s Party of Turks which gathers members of the Turkish community will join and form a coalition with some of the Albanian parties. When parties which gather the Serbs are concerned it is hardly probable that they would join a coalition with any of the Albanian parties primarily because of great mutual lack of confidence. After all, it is not at all clear whether they will participate in the census of the population and therefrom in the elections.

The citizens will be in the most difficult situation of all. Who should they vote for? There is an established opinion about each president of the three biggest political groups – about Rugova, Thaci and Hajredinaj. It seems that Rugova is still in the lead. Thaci’s authority seems to be declining. But when Hajredinaj is concerned much will depend on his public appearances until the elections. It seems that at the same time much and very little is known about him. Much criticism has been stated at his expense, but he also has the reputation of one of the rare commanders of former KLA “who remained consistent”. Will persons like Bakali, Vlasi and other intellectuals who might join Hajredinaj out of inertia or other intentional reasons help him in raising his reputation and forgetting various, sometimes very severe accusations and criticism.

Indeed, the question that arises already is what the results of the elections will be and whether citizens of Kosovo will know who to vote for. Or will they really get what they deserve?

Original article