Kosovo’s most prominent opposition leader on Monday promised major change after his party and another opposition group came in first and second in Kosovo’s snap election, ending long dominance of President Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party (PDK).
The leftist Vetevendosje (Self-determination) party, led by Albin Kurti, was narrowly leading the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), by a 25.6 to 24.9 per cent, with 98 per cent of the ballots counted.
Kurti, who is set to get the mandate to form the next government after the final result was declared, said already that he would seek a coalition with the LDK.
The PDK came in third with 21.1 per cent and would move into opposition for the first time since 2007, while the coalition of outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo won just 11.5 per cent.
“We will contact the LDK to bring about this change. When the opposition becomes the government, which is when the changes will come. Our victory just started the changes,“ Kurti said.
He said the fact that two parties from the opposition would combine for at least 60 seats in the parliament of 120 lawmakers made him particularly happy.
Kurti, a student leader imprisoned by Serbia 20 years ago for his activism, was the loudest critic of corruption in the Kosovo Government as well as UN and EU missions.
He and Vetevendosje, established in 2005, also strongly opposed EU-brokered negotiations with Serbia, saying Belgrade was being rewarded for the oppression and war in the mostly Albanian Kosovo.
Vetevendosje frequently protested in the street, often violently, and its lawmakers interrupted parliamentary sessions by releasing tear gas. Kurti himself had been arrested twice for this.
He was now faced with the daunting task of building the first government in Kosovo to last a full term after more than a dozen years.
Meanwhile, Vetevendosje and the LDK would for that reasons put aside their bickering from the past and probably include a third partner into the alliance.
Upon assumption of duty, the next Kosovo Government might be pressured to resume the long-stalled normalisation talks with Serbia, held under EU auspices since 2011.
A former Serbian province, Kosovo declared independence in 2008, a decade after the KLA began fighting Belgrade’s forces, eventually drawing NATO into decisive action against Serbia in 1999.
However, Kosovo is recognised by more than 100 countries, Serbia-backed by Russia, continued blocking it from the UN and other organiastions.
Kurti, however, had already signaled that he intended to maintain his hard line in relation to Serbia.
“The dialogue will not be about what Kosovo will give to Serbia in exchange for the recognition, but what Serbia owes to Kosovo,“ he said.
But Belgrade has leverage in Kosovo itself, of the 120 legislative seats, 20 reserved for ethnic minorities and half of that for the Serbs.
All 10 seats were won by the Serbian List, loyal to Belgrade. The restive, Serb-dominated northern part of Kosovo resisted integration into Pristina’s institutions.
The Head of Serbia’s Kosovo Bureau, Marko Djuric, said the Kosovo leaders “will have to knock on the door of the Serbian List if they want legitimate institutions.“(dpa/NAN)