AIM
Elections - Which ones are valid in Kosovo?

Fehim REXHEPI

MON, 18 SEP 2000


Pristina, September 5, 2000 - With great difficulties, Kosovo is getting ready for local elections scheduled for late October, and the number one topic here is possible organisation of and participation of Kosovo denizens in Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary and local Serbian elections. Naturally, this is not the question of the participation of Albanians at these elections, as they refused to do so even when it was hardest for them. The Serbs and some minorities voted at previous elections, but the situation, nevertheless did not change for the better. Finally, the war came and all that we more or less know. The Albanians did not turn out at those earlier elections because they refused to recognise Serbia and Yugoslavia as their state.

If the same situation happens again: the Serbs turn out at voting places, but not the Albanians, with UMNIK and KFOR involvement that would mean the return to the pre-war situation regarding some legal and political aspects. For the Albanians and all others who refused to recognise the Serbian and Yugoslav elections, that would mean that, for the first time since it came to Kosovo and for the sake of these elections, UNMIK will practically try to prepare the ground for the return of Kosovo under the authority of Serbia or, as it is better said, within the framework of Yugoslavia.

It is common knowledge here that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 left Kosovo under the Yugoslav sovereignty, but at the same time revoked Yugoslav authority in all fields and established the international civil administration - UNMIK. This Resolution is a result of numerous compromises and many of its elements can be interpreted in various ways. Nevertheless, two things can be understood as definite. The first is that the solution of the Kosovo's status was postponed for better times.

In other words, negotiations should to be organised with the participation of legal and legitimate Kosovo representatives. Secondly, until that time UNMIK should resolve numerous essential issues of Kosovo's reconstruction and development, including the establishment of local democratic institutions. In short, basic conditions for normal life should be created. Naturally, if the problem of Kosovo's ultimate status remains open, all solutions are theoretically possible: from independence to the return under the Serbian rule.

But, in principle, during transitional period, no decisions which prejudice its final status can be adopted. Albanian representatives cannot interpret UNMIK's possible involvement in the holding of Yugoslav and Serbian elections in Kosovo, but as the most serious prejudicing of the Kosovo's final status.

The mentioned Resolution is the highest legal act on Kosovo. But, having in mind its numerous compromises, legally the situation seems rather contradictory, if not impossible. Nevertheless, life is much more contradictory and complicated. Things can be written on paper this or that way, but in real life the situation is either returning to normal or deteriorating.

Kosovo is actually spinning its wheels which in other words means nothing else, but that the situation is deteriorating. There is no doubt that it is partially a consequence of the fact that the international civil administration here is torn apart by diplomatic and political problems. No one has to say that. The "results" of its policy speak for themselves.

It has tried many things as regards reconstruction. But, it lacks the vision of the development and programmes for the progress of the Kosovo society in social and economic respect. It either doesn't know how or is unable to undertake measures for resolving issues regarding the prospects for the survival of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly adolescents and adults. This question is more dangerous for the Kosovo society than any classical weapon. This policy has tried many things and then simply gave up. For example, some time ago, it finally abandoned privatisation. Allegedly, it interfered with Serbia's sovereignty. Instead, it generally opted for long-term renting or state management of facilities. Actually, this means the preservation of Serbia's property rights, so that it could realise them at some point in future. One thing has been forgotten in this - the fact that these facilities were illegally and forcibly turned into state property at the time Belgrade was planning to create chaos in the entire Balkans, that these facilities could fall into ruin and thus, would not be rationally used for increasing production and employment.

Furthermore, that means the weakening of the development potentials, because as a result of this decision, possibilities for the commitment of private capital would be reduced. No one will even consider making any meaningful investments without clearly defined ownership rights. Not to mention the problems of security or, better said, insecurity, which is why UNMIK and KFOR are time and again criticised, or constantly tense inter-ethnic relations or numerous difficulties in everyday life.

This is not a situation in which one can remain undecided. Still, it seems that UNMIK is in two minds as how to behave in practice regarding the organisation of the coming Yugoslav and Serbian elections in Kosovo and its possible involvement in that respect. Otherwise, there are no dilemmas, in principle. The official UNMIK spokesman stated in early August that the international community considered Kosovo a territory under the sovereignty of Yugoslavia and that, consequently, all Kosovo citizens, including the Albanians, can take part in the Yugoslav, i.e. Serbian elections.

Without going into details of legal explanation of the current status of Kosovo, Special Representative Bernard Kouchner repeatedly stated on several occasions that he did not see how could these elections be organised and carried out in Kosovo. He also repeated that in his official statement. However, in the last couple of days statements of several foreign diplomats showed their inclination towards the idea of having these elections organised in Kosovo or finding some similar solution for the Serbs and others who wanted to vote. Nevertheless, if UNMIK would assume one role or the other in the holding of Yugoslav, i.e. Serbian elections in Kosovo, the situation would change in many respects, if not momentarily, then undoubtedly over the long-term.

The Albanians and their representatives would interpret that as open support of the international community for the elections. Naturally, there wouldn't be any large-scale violence or conflicts, but an explosion of the Albanian mistrust towards UNMIK and KFOR would certainly happen. It would be impossible to avoid large-scale disturbances within the Albanian political community, within the Albanian political and, perhaps, even broader public, as well as the strengthening of that part which could be conditionally called - the Albanian political underground. The international civil administration practically recognises parallel authorities of the Kosovo Serbs, the so called Serbian National Councils, with which it negotiates practical and even long-term solutions for the position of the Kosovo Serbs. But, after the Serbian elections, it might be forced to accept the establishment of authorities at the level of Kosovo or its communes, which would be composed of representatives elected at the Yugoslav and Serbian elections.

Irrespective of the possible contesting of the form and location of their establishment and activity, these people would then have certain legality, not only because they would be elected by the people, but more because of the fact that they would be elected at the elections which were supported by UNMIK. It is easy to predict that this would be followed by similar attempts, public or secret, on the Albanian side. Some possible major and harsh inter-Albanian confrontations would not only undermine UNMIK's position, but also show that the international civil administration has failed and actually finished its mission in Kosovo. This sounds as a disastrous vision, but it seems inevitable if UNMIK continues to persistently and openly ignore Albanian refusal to live under the Serbian rule. The Albanians have decades-long experience with relations with Belgrade, which is why assurances about new relations and democracy in the democratic Serbia would not be of much help.

Recent pre-electoral activities of high officials of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in Kosovo, have cause much anxiety, and even political confusion in the Albanian political and broader public. For the Albanian political representatives the rally in Gracanica, where several hundred Serbs cheered their hero Slobodan Milosevic, was a serious provocation. At the same time, they were annoyed by UNMIK's and KFOR's explanation that they were unable to deny freedom of movement to those masses, as well as to their guards who were armed. They certainly did not have UNMIK's permission to have and carry arms. The Albanian side reacted to these explanations by claims that the SPS men who had organised the rally for Slobodan Milosevic in Gracanica, were the same ones who for almost a decade now have been organising war-mongering propaganda, the same ones who have been preparing and waging Serbian wars in the Balkans and Kosovo.

A member of the joint Administrative Council, Rexhep Qosja also stated that elections which were being organised in Yugoslavia could neither now nor ever be held in Kosovo, because this was the "remainder of Yugoslavia" which waged four wars and committed the crime of genocide in Kosovo, so that it had no historic, nor moral nor political right to do something like that. Kouchner repeated that in Kosovo the elections could not be held in official premises, nor that they would get any support. The only thing that would be guaranteed was that there would be no confrontations. He also said that the problem was the fact that one of the presidential candidates at these elections was a war criminal, but also that there were no registered lists of Serbian voters, that no one has asked him officially to organise such elections in Kosovo. Qosja responded that the Albanian political representatives were not satisfied with such an explanation, but that they were pleased that there would be no elections at the level of Yugoslavia.

All in all, the situation is rather precarious. This pushes to the background the importance of and the interest for local Kosovo elections. The status of Kosovo, chances for getting free from the Belgrade rule, inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic confrontations and similar problems have come to the forefront, while even elementary preconditions for the normalisation of situation in Kosovo are still lacking. The latest skirmishes have shown that when it comes to political measuring of swords, as for example at the elections, not all means have been exhausted. Besides, it takes very little for the emotions to start boiling. However, it seems that the recent skirmishes were a kind of a foreplay. Let us remind that in recent weeks the first open direct and indirect accusations for political violence in Kosovo have been made.

Assessing that the major and most serious problem of Kosovo is terrorism, spokesman for the Serbian National Council from Gracanica and the religious alderman of the Decane Monastery, Sava Janjic, accused all political groups which have originated from the former KLA of killing innocent civilians, especially Serbs, of ethnic cleansing and persecuting moderate Albanian forces, also mentioning Rugova's Democratic Alliance of Kosovo. He mentioned in negative terms the President of the Democratic Party, Hashim Thaqi and his party. That same day that side responded with equally serious doubts and accusations that by pretending to be moderate, Janjic was trying to bring back Serbia to Kosovo. Several days later, in a press release, the leadership of Thaqi's party concluded that certain Albanian forces were participating in Janjic's campaign. Before that, Presidency of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo charged various profiteers and groups of political violence which they were using so as keep their positions in the Kosovo society and to remain on the political stage.



Original article