The opposition and Kurti 'tug of war': Will there be early elections this summer?

Aljbin Kurti skupstina
Source: Kosovo Online

Both the opposition parties and the ruling Self-Determination party claim they are ready for early elections, but they are at a tug-of-war over how to pave the way to the polls. Even within the opposition, views on this issue diverge. Although it is estimated that early elections during the summer would be most favorable for Prime Minister Albin Kurti, he is not considering resignation, while for some in the opposition, dissolving the Assembly without, as they say, Kurti's "capitulation" is unacceptable.

According to the Constitution of Kosovo, the Assembly can be dissolved by a decree from the President of Kosovo if two-thirds of the members (80 out of 120) vote for it or if a vote of no confidence in the Government is successfully passed. A no-confidence vote can be initiated by a proposal from one-third of the Assembly members (40) or by the Prime Minister requesting a vote of confidence in the Government.

Memli Krasniqi, the President of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, sent letters two days ago to the leaders of Self-Determination Albin Kurti, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj, and the Democratic League of Kosovo Lumir Abdixhiku, emphasizing the need for snap elections and reiterated that the DPK proposed June 30 or July 7 for their occurrence. In this case, as he pointed out, the vote to dissolve the Assembly would need to be completed by May 29.

Ramush Haradinaj, the President of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, however, believes that elections should occur by Kurti returning the mandate to the parliament and proposing its dissolution on the same day.

Kurti himself discussed the timing of the parliamentary elections last week with coalition partners and representatives of minority communities, but the outcome of that discussion is not known.

The regular election term is at the beginning of 2025.

Belgzim Kamberi, the director of the "Musine Kokalari" Institute, told Kosovo Online that it is hard to know whether Prime Minister Albin Kurti genuinely wants early elections or prefers to keep elections as a topic of discussion to divert attention from problems like the Council of Europe, the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, or some laws failing to pass in parliament.

"If we go to elections by July, then there is not much constitutional room except to have some sort of agreement within about ten days. From what we have seen so far, the most likely possibility is some agreement between Self-Determination and the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Memli Krasniqi, and perhaps a non-Serbian parliamentary minority group to dissolve the Assembly," Kamberi said.

Marko Milenkovic from the NGO "Nova drustvena inicijativa" believes that it suits Self-Determination for parliamentary elections to occur before the American elections and potential changes in both America and the European Union after their respective elections.

"It's uncertain what would happen with additional waiting, namely postponing the elections to the regular term, which is February next year," Milenkovic told Kosovo Online.He adds that Self-Determination might want to create an opportunity, together with the Democratic Party of Kosovo or with its support, to dissolve the Assembly, for which it currently lacks the votes of other parties, since the DPK is the only one that has expressed readiness to participate in this process.

University professor Nexhmedin Spahiu believes that a majority can be formed in the parliament for its dissolution so that elections can be held during the summer, a timing that would suit Prime Minister Albin Kurti who is hoping for the diaspora's votes. During the summer, the diaspora is in Kosovo, and Kurti hopes to secure their support, potentially garnering about 200,000 to 300,000 more votes than he would in other periods.

"Some part of the opposition is not ready for this, precisely knowing that the diaspora will vote for Kurti. The Democratic Party of Kosovo has an internal need for the elections to be as soon as possible and if they collect a certain number of signatures for the dissolution of the Assembly, I believe Self-Determination will add their votes and there will be elections. Kurti has promised this and there is no reason to doubt that he will go for it, considering it suits him to have elections during the summer," Spahiu told Kosovo Online.

 

Regarding the possibility of holding local elections in northern Kosovo to elect new mayors in four predominantly Serbian municipalities along with the parliamentary elections, Spahiu says there is no legal basis for this.

"Snap local elections can only be called in case of the mayor's death, if they resign, or commit a criminal offense. The mechanism for removing a mayor is for more than half of the registered voters to vote for it in a referendum. Why would people who had a job before this position and earned salaries of 170 euros or 200 euros a month, and now receive 1,500 euros a month, resign? It wouldn't make sense. Who could force them to do that? Torture is forbidden in Kosovo, it's forbidden to coerce a mayor into resigning. If they don't want to resign, no one can force them," Spahiu explains.


Regarding the elections in the north for new mayors, Belgzim Kamberi mentions that there will continue to be pressure from international actors to hold them, but this is very difficult after unsuccessful referendums.

"Considering the calendar and that we are entering a vacuum because we almost have elections in the EU and the US, and surely snap elections in Kosovo, it will be very difficult to organize new elections in the north. We will have vacuum situations until a new establishment is formed in the EU, the US, and in Kosovo, which is not good for the security situation, especially in the north," Kamberi concludes.


The scenario of mayors' resignations and the merging of potential snap parliamentary and local elections is also uncertain, according to Marko Milenkovic. However, he notes that he believes there will be certain pressures from the international community regarding the elections in the north, more through internal channels than publicly.

"I believe there is a desire from the international community to hold elections in the north and to change the government, but that desire does not exist within the ruling party in Pristina. I think there is currently only a desire for control and that this is potentially a ground for them to gather additional votes, gain popularity in public opinion, for potential actions in the north, which is better facilitated through the control they currently have and which the authorities misuse in that sense to strengthen the image of sovereignty. Therefore, it seems to me that elections in the north along with central-level elections are not realistic at this moment," says Milenkovic.