Haradinaj made a few comments asking people if they are better off now, than before. If not, the AAK could provide them solution. The party leader highlighted that there was never a situation in Kosovo like now, when there were so many rich politicians and so many poor citizens (our note – Haradinaj’s personal wealth is around 1,3 million EUR).
Vetevendosje’s – called ‘Self-Determination’ in English – foundations date back until 2004 but gathered public appearance in 2007 when the movement managed to move 60 thousand people to protest against the UN proposal – the Ahtisaari plan – for Kosovo because the demonstrators claimed that this plan did not go far enough towards independence and denied sovereignty. The protest was broken up by riot police with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Two people died and many were injured that day. Despite the fact that representatives of the movement declared and pledged that they would not accept the current political system, the movement is already registered as a political party which will run in the parliamentary elections in Kosovo. The former activists do not accept that they have already become a political party in Kosovo.
The party’s aim is still the same since then: they want Kosovo as a normal democratic state, with having sovereignty and economic development. Vetevendosje is strongly against the UN presence in Kosovo and is a harsh critic of corruption in general among the big parties. The party is one of the main uncertain and unpredictable political factors of the elections. It’s support – according to several polling companies – varies between 10 and 16 percent, which is considered as a considerably high number compared to the party’s previous almost non-existence.
Vetevendosje seems to be out of the main ‘promising game’ and from the media coverage. The party started the campaign in divided Mitrovica, stating that the city is not a problem but a beginning of solutions. We should note, that former American ambassador to Kosovo, William Walker, appeared at a campaign venue of Vetevendosje where he stated, Kosovo needs a change.
The party – abbreviated FER – is seen as one of the brightest stars on today’s ‘political skyline’ in Kosovo. FER was just established in October, 2010 by Shpend Ahmeti and Illir Deda, two well-educated – American and British graduates – young civil society activists. The party supports individual freedoms, a market economy, equal opportunity for all, and social welfare, including minimum protection for vulnerable groups. FER does not distinguish between nationalities, the party places great emphasis on individual freedoms – mirroring all characteristics of a liberal party, which seems to be bringing a new generation of politicians: young professionals, who do not have previous experience in politics. FER does not take the negotiations with Serbia Kosovo’s top priority. The new party’s main base could be those young citizens – young people form the majority of the population in Kosovo – who are disappointed in last years’ politics and would like to see a clear future agenda concentrating on everyday persons’ life – and not on benefits of several political circles.
FER chose a well-known campaign slogan: change. According to the party’s leaders – who opened their campaign under the NEWBORN sign in Pristina – this change starts with Kosovar citizens. FER officials stated that they want to turn words into concrete acts.
The Democratic League of Dardania (LDD) has not split from the ideological base of the LDK. It is Kosovo’s second or third biggest center-right party, with conservativeliberal conservative attitudes. Nevertheless, the LDD seems to be one of the losers of this December’s parliamentary elections: all polling companies show a one percent support for the party.
Among those parties, which try to represent the interests of Kosovo Serbs, the Independent Liberal Party (SLS) is the biggest one, which participated in the PDK-led government, even after the LDK left the coalition and delegated two ministers into the cabinet. The party does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, however, it wants to protect the interests of the Serb communities in Kosovo-Metohija. It is basically taking a neutral position in this matter.
Belgrade is discouraging Serbs in Kosovo from voting and not recommending them to participate. Previous experience shows that in some Serb inhabited regions of Kosovo this campaign was successful – only 5 percents of the Serbs in Kosovo voted last time – but due the divided situation of Serbian politics in Kosovo in some areas those parties, which wanted to gain access to the political arena in Kosovo, managed to mobilize Serb voters up until a certain extent. We should note that several prominent Serbian politicians – like Vuk Draskovic former Foreign Minister – called Kosovo Serbs to cast their votes to have their say in their future fate.
The voting’s possible aftermath
The PDK’s options might get rather limited: the support of smaller Serb groups is given but additional players are needed to from a stable government. Rugova Junior might get an important role here: as his father was president of the PDK until his death in 2006, he still has a tradition and history which he could build on there. Rugova is openly dissatisfied with the current LDK-leadership and this might help the PDK to offer the young politician and his party list important positions and influence. Nonetheless, one big question is that how much mobilization power the young Rugova has, will he be able to get the ‘critical’ amount of people to vote for the AAK? On the other hand, if Thaci wants to bargain with the AAK he needs to take Haradinaj, a charismatic and ambitious figure, into account too, he is the AAK’s PM candidate and according to latest news he received a temporary leave from the ICTY and be able to home after the elections so he can take part in the bargaining, if this would be the case. Now it seems, that the AKR alone will not be able to provide a real coalition partner alternative for Thaci and Pacolli also tried to distance his party from the PDK during the campaign.
As we have seen above, almost all opposition parties were following a course of distancing themselves from the PDK, trying to find another way of getting under the PDK’s umbrella and establishing their own policies and priorities. We noted that the PDK, even if it wins the elections, will be in a difficult situation to find a suitable coalition partner. If the PDK will be out of the game because noone would cooperate with the party, other scenarios might pop up. The LDK and the AAK have already formed a coalition government after the elections in 2004, when Haradinaj became PM and Ibrahim Rugova remained the President. We would not exclude totally the cooperation of the two entities, but since Rugova Junior is not happy with the current LDK leadership it is hardly imaginable that with this LDK composition a closer LDK-AAK alliance for forming a government might occur.
For the newcomers – Vetevendosje and FER – it is completely useless to get involved in ‘old politics’ and support almost the same government which they campaigned against. For these two new political powers the more they distance themselves from the current political sphere is the better for gaining more votes and the next four years could be a learning and experience gathering period. Their involvement with the current parties, especially with the PDK, would undermine the cause for which they were created and started to run up for the elections.
Based on our information, knowledge and data available today (December 10 2010), we can say that at least three opposition parties’/newcomers’ cooperation is needed to provide a realistic alternative for a government change in Kosovo. However, this option seems very difficult to be achieved these days and in our opinion great changes might be needed in several parties’ leadership if this variation would like to work.
The more realistic scenario is that the PDK tries to attract one currently opposition party which will gather around or more than ten percent of the votes in the upcoming elections and with the support of several minorities Thaci tries to preserve his party’s leading role, as well as his Prime Ministership.