Democratization in Kosovo
Kosovo had a different transition compared to other former communist countries after the fall of communism in the region that influenced the development of pluralism and democratization of the political party. This influence determined Kosovo’s different path for many reasons, but the main ones can be attributed to changes in the political, social and economic environment in Kosovo after the constitutional changes imposed by the Milošević regime. The initial demands of most of the political groups were a repetition of the previous ones for republic status for Kosovo within SFRY, yet they quickly shifted towards the struggle for full independence following similar developments in Slovenia and Croatia. All parties supported the establishment of a democratic system with free elections and the protection of minorities’ rights. In the ‘shadow’ elections in 1990 (that were considered illegal by the government in power in Kosovo) the party led by Ibrahim Rugova, of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) won the absolute majority of the votes. The government that was established operated mainly from abroad, soon to be known as the government in exile. Rugova’s government was limited to some level of control and organization of the education and health care sector, funded on a voluntarily basis through a symbolic tax collected in Kosovo diasporas. (9)
The nature of the ‘shadow’ government in Kosovo and its very existence under Milošević’s rule made it appear more as a fiction than an efficient institutional government to foster democratic transformation and development. Despite the limitations that the government had while operating in Kosovo, the fact that political and social pluralism started in Kosovo in the form of political parties and movements as well as some not-for-profit organizations were signs of a democratization process. The tremendous growth of the LDK and the absolute majority that was ensured in the first elections also created a particular situation with regard to political ideological development and the internal political party democratization, not only within the LDK but also within other political organizations.
Development of Political Concepts
The new political groups of Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo adjusted their policies according to the new political environment and circumstances, and basically developed two dominant political concepts and discourses with regard to the future of Kosovo. The main political group, LDK, established a political concept that would project the struggle for independence from Serbia through peaceful resistance. Such a concept meant the general boycott of state institutions and the internationalization of the Kosovo issue. Further, this internationalization meant a large-scale campaign to inform the international community of the political and human rights situation created in Kosovo after the changes and to convince it to support the right to self-determination of the Albanian people of Kosovo in their struggle for independence. This concept was seen as the only way to ensure the continuation of such a struggle and, above all, to prevent an escalation of the conflict that was thought would have grave consequences for the people of Kosovo.
The alternative concept (rooted back in the 1920s) saw the political future of Kosovo as reunited with Albania rather than as an independent country, and sought freedom from Serbian rule through active resistance (supported by guerrilla operations against the Serbian Army and police) rather than peaceful resistance, imagining a possible direct involvement of Albania in such an enterprise. Such a concept saw the involvement of the international community in the Kosovo issue, imagining Albania as the most important actor. As realistic as this might be considered, developments during the 1990s proved an important point in this respect. Albania, after all, was not the country some of the leaders of such movements, who had been educated and fed with Enver Hoxha’s (Communist leader, dictator of Albania) propaganda, imagined, and was not going to get itself involved actively in the Kosovo solution. Therefore, this concept did not enjoy the support of the majority of people in Kosovo.
As the situation developed in the SFRY and especially in Serbia, the political discourse established by the LDK was considered as the most realistic one, despite the fact that it did not pose any serious threat to Milošević’s rule. Milošević’s group could continue its policies, as situations developing with the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia were far more important for the international community than Kosovo. The created status quo enabled the ‘Western leaders to diplomatically ignore Kosovo’, as Blumi would put it. Whether the LDK political discourse might have prevented the conflict in the early 1990s is still a matter of further discussion and analysis.
LDK versus Other Political Groups in Kosovo
The establishment of the political concept of ‘passive peaceful resistance’ by the LDK created a particular situation with regard to democratization. The democratization process had been limited to only two elements: the internal democratization of political parties and the media. Other forms of democratization of institutions were simply impossible in Kosovo due to the lack of institutions, because of the general boycott and non-recognition of Milošević’s institutions in Kosovo by Kosovo’s Albanian political establishment.
It is difficult to observe any serious development of political ideologies in the political parties in Kosovo during the 1990s. It may be suggested here that political parties in Kosovo during that time remained more as political movements than parties, and their political ideological development was very limited due to the common political aim and objective, that of the ultimate independence for Kosovo. Having a common political objective to establish a state seems to have inhibited the development of ideologies about how such a state would function and develop and what kinds of policies the political parties would follow with respect to other elements of the state that would ensure a better quality of life for the people.
The political concept of the LDK dominated the political environment especially in the first years of its establishment until the Dayton Peace Accord for Bosnia. The growth of the LDK marginalized all political parties in Kosovo and basically they were only orbiting around the LDK’s development. This created a particular situation with the LDK seeing itself as the strongest and the most developed party in Kosovo thus halting its own internal democratization process, which was also reflected in the internal development of other political parties.
The party conventions, for example, would be organized in the same way all the time, with the same leadership being legitimized and not opening opportunities for new faces. This also created a particular political culture within the political environment in Kosovo, that of the leader of the party, who was seen as the person to drive the reforms and the democratization development of the party. The development of the party systems was therefore more actor-driven than structure driven. In this sense, any initiatives for further policy debates or party institutional development and reform were doomed to end in a cul-de-sac if they were not supported by the leader. Such a phenomenon could be attributed to the long tradition of authoritarian institutions functioning in a former communist country or to the particular political situation in the 1990s in Kosovo which meant that the struggle for independence from Serbian rule was far more important than internal party development. If such a justification can be valid, then this is as naïve as it may be from the simple fact that after the war in 1999 Serbian rule over Kosovo ended and the political party development was still continuing in the same tradition, despite the fact that the assistance of international institutions such as the OSCE was never greater than in that period. Such a situation created a difficult position for those reformists, albeit symbolic in numbers, who wished to oppose such internal party developments and push for more open, transparent and democratic ways of functioning of the party structures. This political culture was also reflected in other parties during that period and after the war. The death of Ibrahim Rugova in January 2006 proved how many political parties in Kosovo had lost with the lack of internal political party development, which is indicative of the level of democratization. The main political parties are still bound in a particular way to their leaders. After Rugova’s death, the LDK was split into three groups, with more perhaps to happen in the near future. Similar situations can be observed for other parties as well, bearing in mind the difficulties they face while operating in the absence of their leader, as in the example of the Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës [The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo] (AAK), the party of the former Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia for war crimes. Should an internal political party democratization process have been fostered during the period before the war, the party (the LKD) perhaps would not have gone through such changes.
Time after time, other political groups/parties would appear and disappear. These parties could not escape marginalization by the LDK and disappearance from the scene was quite common. The explanation for this phenomenon could be both social and political. Social, because society in general has viewed the LDK’s political discourse as the most viable to prevent conflicts (that were already under way in Croatia and Bosnia) and to win the support of the international community through the policy of internationalization. Political, because the leadership of the LDK felt secure in the Kosovo political environment with no real opposition in sight and any initiative of democratization would ultimately lead to the formation of different political concepts and mechanisms, and therefore would possibly weaken the LDK’s political security.
Such developments were witnessed in Kosovo after the Dayton Agreement, which seriously weakened the LDK’s position, not so much through internal political party reforms as through development of different political circumstances, especially when an agreement on education between Rugova and Milošević, sponsored by Sant’Egidio Community in Rome, on the use of educational facilities by Albanian students was reached but never implemented. Political opponents saw this as a total failure of Rugova’s policy and as a dangerous indication that the future negotiations with Serbia, which were promoted by Rugova’s LDK, were shifting from political international actors and institutions to humanitarian nongovernmental organizations. This shift strengthened the more radical political groups in Kosovo because society started to observe possible cracks in the independence project. The main mechanism of the LDK in maintaining the popularity of its political concepts during the 1990s was through the media. In the early 1990s, the media in Kosovo were influenced by the LDK and would promote only the LDK’s view. The appearance, in 1997, of Koha Ditore, a daily newspaper funded with the support of the Soros Foundation, brought a different point of view from the other daily newspaper that was a clear voice of Rugova’s policy, appearing more independent and offering more objective analysis about different political factions and social trends. This change with regard to the media had crucial consequences for the political and social developments to follow in Kosovo. This media outlet challenged the LDK’s view and reported the position of Kosovo internationally, breaking the conviction that had been created through the LDK’s media that the situation in Kosovo would be resolved through the LDK’s policies. It did this by reporting that Kosovo was not on the international community’s agenda and that the chances were that if it did get on it, it might not be for negotiation of independence but rather for a political settlement that would be limited to some sort of autonomy within Serbia. This daily newspaper is still considered one of the most independent media outlets in Albanian.
The Democratization Process After the War
Robert Keohane points out that analysing world politics in the 1990s is to discuss international institutions, and this is very valid for the Balkans of the last two decades. The international civilian presence, in the form of UNMIK, was given the task of rebuilding Kosovo from scratch. Institutions were completely non-functional and Kosovo Albanians had failed to fill the institutional vacuum created following the withdrawal of Serbian security forces and administration in the way they had agreed while at the Rambouillet Conference. It is still not clear whether the LDK’s refusal to participate in the Provisional Government of Kosovo (PGK, or the Unity Government as it was called) with Hashim Thaqi (KLA political director and the head of the Albanian delegation in Rambouillet) as Prime Minister or the lack of an invitation from the KLA to do so resulted in the LDK’s exclusion from the government or whether the phenomenon of the ‘leadership’ played any role in such a situation or any other agreement with other ‘actors’ involved. This issue is more covered with speculation rather than by any serious evidence.
UNMIK claimed all administrative, executive, judicial and legislative powers in Kosovo, mandated from UNSC Resolution 1244 to establish democratic institutions for self-government. UNMIK considered the Provisional Government of Kosovo (PGK) as ‘illegal’. However, the general mood of the population and the acceptance of the international presence, especially the NATO forces, in Kosovo was very positive. The international community had a very good advantage regarding institution building in Kosovo, considering the difficulty of building functional institutions from scratch in a society that had not participated in any institutional form for a decade and that lacked qualitative education even in the former Yugoslavia regarding institution building.10 The positive mood towards the international community’s presence was advantageous in the sense that they could launch a great educational programme of democratization of the institutions in Kosovo, if they had the will to do so. Observing the developments in Kosovo in this regard, one comes to mixed conclusions. This first political clash between the Kosovo Albanian political establishment and the international community concerned the latter’s neutrality towards Kosovo’s political status. The project of independence still remained the main political objective of most of Kosovo’s political groups and the parties experienced a similar situation as before the war with regard to their development.
The International Community, the Democratization Process and Institution Building
To ensure smooth operation of the mission UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan oversaw the setting-up of the organizational structure of UNMIK through a fourpillar structure: UNMIK, to deal with all administrative issues in Kosovo; UNHCR, to coordinate the return of refugees and humanitarian assistance; the EU, to deal with economic reconstruction; and the OSCE, entrusted with the task of institution building aimed at ‘strengthening the capacity of local and central institutions and civil society organisations … promoting democracy, good governance [and] organising elections’. The OSCE’s task comprised elements such as training and raising ‘awareness and involvement of citizens in social and political change in Kosovo by strengthening the development of local citizens, … professional, cultural and other associations, … programs to facilitate conditions that support pluralistic political party structures, political diversity and a healthy democratic climate, … training of government officials and executive and administrative officers in procedures of good governance’. Since the Yugoslav crisis in the 1990s, the EU’s involvement in the region had been limited more to humanitarian aid and crisis management, and the handling of the crisis had been quite disastrous, as Papadimitriou (2002: 186) would note. Yet, the involvement in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis, being an integral part of the UNMIK structure, was a sign of a shift of management and involvement in the region, and EU institutions were a special help to the UNMIK.
The UN presence in Kosovo was unique in the sense that it claimed absolutely all powers of a state. The democratically elected institutions were able to exercise only limited responsibilities and the real powers remained with the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), who enjoyed unlimited executive and legislative powers. The UN presence in Kosovo understood institution building in Kosovo literally as their exclusive experiment by not taking seriously the political groups in Kosovo, the social and political circumstances, the recent history of the 1990s and the post-conflict environment. Yet, despite the limited inclusion of political groups and actors in the institutional life of Kosovo, they still had the opportunity to undergo some real development. The main trouble that comes with such a situation is the level of measurement one can apply when analysing the democratization development without full inclusion of the political actors in institutional life. When something is evaluated in negative terms in security or governance matters, which institutions are to be held accountable, UNMIK or the Kosovo institutions?
The presence of international institutions in Kosovo, and especially the OSCE, contributed to the start of democratization development in political parties, local civil administration, civil society, the local judiciary, and the police force and media led by the OSCE with the assistance of a number of specialized international organizations. Training seminars that were organized and structured for all these levels, especially on political parties and public administration, included education on democratic practices and principles and multi-ethnic cooperation and reconciliation. They tried to cover all the structures of political parties and public administration. Bearing in mind the post-war environment in Kosovo, the challenges that these international organizations and institutions faced were quite serious, especially in multi-ethnic cooperation and reconciliation.
The challenges on this issue have been twofold. On one hand was the ethnicization of Kosovo’s polity in general, although the Constitutional Framework, adopted during UNMIK’s governance, and the Kosovo Constitution after the declaration of independence, allocated reserved seats for minorities in the Kosovo Parliament (11) and local councils followed the examples of many EU countries of the policy of positive discrimination. The Serb minority, especially the hard-line political actors in northern Mitrovica, boycotted and did not participate (and still do not) in the Parliament and other legislative bodies. Some Serb representatives from other Serbian enclaves in Kosovo are part of the government heading some ministries. On the other hand, Belgrade exercised, and still does, a very heavy pressure in the Serb minority in Kosovo, encouraging them not to participate in institutional life in Kosovo and to boycott cooperation with UNMIK and now with the EU-led Rule of Law mission (EULEX). As Obradović observes, the problem of the virtual separate development is forced from above, particularly from Belgrade and Kosovo Serbian authorities, as a continuing protest gesture against Kosovo independence. Based on NGOs’ reports from the region, Belgrade is preventing the integration of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo institutions, creating situations where more and more young people leave to study or work in Serbia proper because of the difficulties that such pressures create. The pressures are of a different kind and include the withdrawal of financial benefits up to the point of direct threats and intimidation through its security services operating clandestinely in Kosovo.(12) Despite the symbolic Serb participation in governmental institutions, political parties in Kosovo still remain established along ethnic lines with few multi-ethnic parties or party programmes in place.
The same is observable at the NGO level. Although more than 2,000 local NGOs were registered in Kosovo after the war, few of them are engaged in any multi-ethnic activities, and only a few of them can be considered as serious NGOs who still continue to operate despite the limitations on international financial aid and grants. This suggests that many NGOs that were operational in Kosovo while international financial assistance was available during the period of the aftermath of the conflict were established more to participate in the financial benefits rather than in purely civic matters. However, those that are still active represent a considerable membership of a number of people and serve as observers towards both the Kosovo polity and the international presence. Some of them even investigate corruption charges concerning different officials in the government at all levels as well as about different officials of the UNMIK and other international institutions, and lately of the EULEX. Their attempts on these matters, however, are still limited to different awareness-raising campaigns against these phenomena, and some cases with very high profile political leaders have ended in the courts after EULEX was pressured to lay charges for corruption against some individuals.
Although it is hard to suggest that such charges were a result of awareness-raising campaigns from some local NGOs, no doubt they contributed to a better climate for accountability. The important factor in these issues with civic organizations is their ability to raise the awareness in the general public challenging both international institutions and the government. The most prominent of such social movements (turned into political movement) is Vetëvendosja (VV). This movement has been able to mobilize a great number of young people in Kosovo and is a great opposition voice for many controversial policies. Albin Kurti, its leader, a former leader of students in the protest of 1998 before the war, has been charged and arrested many times by the police. In one of the protests that this movement organized, the UNMIK police (Romanian police) killed two participants when it violently crushed the protest.13 Arrests and charges for destruction of public property and other minor offences against this movement have certainly contributed negatively to the image of UNMIK, EULEX and the Government of Kosovo, especially bearing in mind the current general mood of much of the population, especially young people, about these institutions before and after the declaration of independence. For example, voter participation in post-war Kosovo was very high initially but has declined drastically over the years. In local elections in 2000 the turnout ranged from 79.9 per cent to more than 90 per cent (OSCE 2000) in different municipalities. In the 2001 assembly elections the turnout dropped to 64.3 per cent (OSCE 2001). In 2004 and 2007 the turnout was 53.57 per cent and 40.10 per cent (OSCE 2004, 2007), to increase at the last elections in 2010 to 64 per cent (KQZ 2010). The decline before 2010 can be seen as an expression of dissatisfaction and lack of belief in the political parties and in the UNMIK structures by the majority of the population, who view them as institutions that did not deliver what the people expected. Corruption allegations, the stagnation of economic development, the high rate of unemployment, the chaos created in public services, nepotism in the institutions, are all elements that have caused the decline in voter participation (before 2010) and trust in the UNMIK to fight corruption, especially when corruption charges circulated about some UNMIK members as well.
The increase in voter participation in 2010 could be seen as a result of the institutional crisis that called for the extraordinary elections, following a decision by the Constitutional Court that the President of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, had breached the Constitution by holding two public offices (of the president of the country and the political party). Another interpretation of this increase may be that these were the first assembly elections in post-independent Kosovo and the political environment was experiencing the emergence of new political groups such as Vetëvendosja. Voter participation increased with more young people participating in the elections.
The opposition on the other side, having been in the government before and having faced corruption charges, still does not look to be prepared to seriously challenge the government, although one can observe a debate culture in the parliament. The only constructed and the most voiced opposition in today’s Parliament of Kosovo is VV, with a quite well-established politically profiled programme. This movement differs from other small political groups that support only the reunification of Kosovo with Albania as the ultimate final solution to the Kosovo question, in the sense that it supports Kosovo independence yet asks for the right to reunification with any state that the Kosovo people would express through a referendum.
Good Governance in Kosovo and Organized Crime
Despite the fact that political parties received substantial and extensive education programmes on democratic principles and good governance from OSCE and other international organizations, it is quite difficult to observe any changes in their performance and efforts in establishing institutions based on good governance practices. Different elements and factors related to corruption and organized crime make good governance difficult to apply in Kosovo. The transfer of power from one party or coalition to another in Kosovo as a result of elections has generally happened in a smooth and calm manner and there have not been any tensions between the parties, regardless of their political views and lines. This has demonstrated a relatively good culture of power transfer and acceptance of the election results. Although this could be attributed to OSCE monitoring and organization of elections in Kosovo since the end of the conflict, the last local elections in 2009 were organized by the Kosovo Government and the smooth operation and acceptance of results and transfer of power have been evaluated highly and praised by international organizations and the EU. However, the last parliamentary elections in 2010 were not as smooth as the local elections and were followed with numerous irregularities and allegations of fraud. Despite such allegations, the elections were repeated in the disputed municipalities and the results were accepted and certified.
Power transfers in Kosovo may offer a good image of democratization development, but public accountability and good governance practices suggest the opposite: political actors tend to understand their power more in terms of personal gain than as a public responsibility to ensure a better living standard for the population and to put in place stable institutions to cope with the political challenges of EU integration. The many corruption allegations involving particular government officials, including some high-ranking ministers, suggest that the political elite in Kosovo is slipping through the fast tracks of accumulating personal wealth through corruption and other criminal methods. These issues are seriously endangering the image of Kosovo and are further creating a very tense political situation inside the country, contributing greatly towards general public dissatisfaction.
Organized crime in the Balkan region is a very serious matter, especially for the EU, as it is on Europe’s frontier and is a crossroads of different criminal activities connecting east and west, along with other countries of Eastern Europe. Balkan organized crime groups function in very complex networks involving many relevant actors, such as state security institutions like intelligence organizations, military and police, political leaders, paramilitary groups, religious leaders, and business leaders in state-owned companies. As Clark notes, Balkan organized groups conduct nearly the same operations that one would see anywhere in the world, thus providing goods and services that the governments of those societies are unable to provide or may limit or restrict.
During the 1990s, organized crime groups flourished throughout the Balkans and especially in the former Yugoslavia during the conflicts. Embargoes and sanctions necessitated the smuggling of different goods, such as fuels and weapons, and human trafficking of people looking for ways out of the conflict zones. Warlords usually presented themselves as uncompromising nationalists defending each nation’s cause but at the same time established great cooperation networks with other warlords in support of each other, regardless of ethnic or political background and worked together when it was in their interests. Glenny describes in more details the cooperation between different groups of the criminal underworld in the Balkans and especially of those groups that already had the capacities to use different state security services.
However, the region is extremely stigmatized for its role in drugs, human or weapons trafficking or other forms of organized crime. There are other reports that, suggest, on the contrary, that the Balkan region is one of the safest in Europe with regard to the levels of crime against people or property. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) suggests that the number of conventional criminal activities is falling in every Balkan country and that this trend is likely to continue as the countries are strengthening their justice systems, raising their living standards and becoming more integrated with the rest of Europe. The UNODC attributes these developments and improvements in dealing with organized crime to greater regional stability and democracy and closer integration with the EU through the EU’s mechanisms.
In Kosovo, organized crime is spread through all those networks mentioned earlier. However, Kosovo enjoys a different environment with the EU-led Rule of Law mission, EULEX, present in Kosovo. The EULEX seems to be the only force for the moment able to fight corruption and organized crime, as it would be very difficult for any new political power that might emerge in Kosovo to do so. EULEX authorities have started investigations of corruption allegations against a significant number of officials in local and central levels of government, including former officials from previous governments. Although such allegations date back to 2010, EULEX has still not completed any of the investigations. This seems to be a crucial time for the EULEX to assist institutions in fighting corruption and organized crime. A failure to continue with these investigations and bring those responsible to justice would put the EULEX into a very difficult position and the public will start to doubt its power, competence and will to tackle the real problems of governance in Kosovo.
(9) All staff of the former education system worked for nearly 10 years without pay with the only objective being to keep the education system up and running and enable students to continue learning, as schools in Albanian language and with the curriculum that Kosovo enjoyed before the autonomy was abolished, were totally banned and closed to students of Albanian background from Milošević’s regime. Health care was in the same situation and was still operating under great limitations. The government in exile introduced a 3 per cent annual income tax per capita, a voluntary tax on all Kosovo Albanian individuals on working contracts all around the world to support their activities, which were limited to education and health, and the other activities of the government. Eventually, Kosovo Albanians responded massively and signed up for support for an indefinite period of time. It is not clear how many people signed up for such an enterprise, but unofficially the speculation circles around 700,000 to 1.3 million. It is also not clear as to the spending of such a budget, as the administration of this revenue was not transparent. The education and health system seemed to continue to work without pay. Universities operated with the revenue they generated from tuition fees, paid in full by students.
(10) The University of Priština established its department of Political Sciences and Public Administration only after the war. After the changes in the constitution of 1974 in the SFRY, Kosovo was given the opportunity to open the university for the first time with particular departments in humanities and natural sciences.
(11) The Kosovo Parliament has in total 120 seats, 20 of which are allocated for minorities, with 10 seats for the Serb minority. They can also get more seats if they get a sufficient number of votes during the election process.
(12) The Serb minority in Kosovo (those living in the northern part of Kosovo and other enclaves throughout the territory) enjoy financial benefits in the structure of different allowances, pensions and salaries for those working in local councils, health and education institutions in the enclaves. They have been and still are also being paid by the Government of Kosovo for their services. However, Belgrade is threatening to cut their benefits if they continue to take salaries from the Government of Kosovo, as there are some voices, especially in the enclaves, to participate and start their full integration in the institutions of Kosovo. There was a great shift in the last local elections held in November 2009, where a great number of Serbs participated in electing their representatives in some local council where they make up the majority in enclaves in central and southern Kosovo. They have been condemned by Belgrade and other Serb political parties in northern Kosovo.
(13) This movement, for example, attacked especially the UNMIK regulation 2000/47 - On the Status, Privileges and Immunities of KFOR and UNMIK and Their Personnel in Kosovo, where local courts have absolutely no jurisdiction over the international staff of UNMIK and KFOR, whose personnel enjoys a general immunity. A number of cases of rape or murder by international staff working in UNMIK or KFOR and corruption charges involving millions of Euros have gone unpunished.