Sunday

26th Feb 2017

Opinion

Thaci’s thirst for power is harming Kosovo

For about three weeks after the recent elections, Kosovo saw a heated debate on who has the right to form a government.

The snap elections were held on 8 June after parliament was dissolved in May due to a crisis of confidence in Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, whose coalition had lost the majority in parliament and become dysfunctional.

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He had been criticised over high unemployment, corruption, and his increasingly authoritarian style. But the trigger was his failure to secure the vote from Kosovo’s minorities on the creation of the Kosovo Armed Forces.

In order to fight the June election, Thaci’s PDK party teamed up with a mixed bag of political groups, including the religious Justice Party, and The Movement for National Union, which advocates unification with Albania.

Turnout was low and the results changed little.

PDK came top with about 30 percent. The Kosovo New Alliance party of plutocrat Behxhet Pacolli, a Thaci ally, did not get back into parliament. But a new faction, the Initiative for Kosovo Nisma, got in just three months after its launch.

Normally, the side which comes first - winning 61 or more out of 120 seats - forms the government.

Thaci cobbled together 37 seats. But an LDK-AAK-Nisma coalition, formed just two days ater the vote, got 47.

In Kosovo, 20 seats are reserved for minorities, which always side with whoever can get them into power, giving LDK-AAK-Nisma a clear majority of 67 seats.

That should have been that. But Thaci claimed that since his party came top, only he had the right to form a government.

Causing a mess

According to Kosovo’s constitution, the president gives the mandate to the side which can deliver a majority in parliament. Kosovo is still a new and fragile democracy - its institutions are not strong enough to resist the mountain of influence that people like Thaci can move on their own behalf.

This is why the president failed to assert her authority and, instead, asked the constitutional court for a verdict. And this is why the court gave a confusing decision.

It said the party which came top can propose the government.

It also said that if this government fails to win majority support, then “it is at the discretion of the President of the Republic, after consultations with the parties or coalitions, to decide which party or coalition will be given the mandate to propose another candidate for prime minister”.

Its reasoning was blurry and controversial.

One judge even opposed the decision. In his dissenting opinion, American jurist Robert Carolan said the constitution gives the president “broad authority in nominating a candidate, who would have the best chance of obtaining the approval of the majority in the assembly”.

The parties accepted the ruling, however.

Thaci is still trying to forge a majority coalition even though it is crystal clear he won’t make it - the only party he can turn to, Vetvendosje, has vowed to shun him. If, or rather when, he fails, the president is expected to turn to LDK-AAK-Nisma.

If Kosovo authorities had taken into account the practice of well-established democracies we would not be in this mess.

Lesson from Luxemburg

Last year, the then Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, also called early elections.

His CSV party won 23 out of 60 seats, but despite coming first, three other parties - DP, LSAP and the Greens - created a coalition and left Juncker in the same shoes as Thaci.

Juncker also claimed the right to form a government. But the coalition’s candidate for PM, Xavier Bettel, said it is the parliamenary majority which counts. Green party leader, Francois Bausch, argued that “two-thirds of the voters did not vote for CSV … [so] it has no majority”.

Unlike Thaci, Juncker bowed out gracefully, even offering advice to Bettel on how to choose his cabinet.

The Luxembourg example should have showed Kosovo’s politicians, its president, and its court how to proceed.

The fact the president and the court fudged a decision in Thaci’s favour casts doubt on their competence in protecting Kosovo’s unity and democracy.

The biggest test of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power by the will of the majority. Coalition rule is an expression of that will, not of force.

But Thaci has proved he has little respect for democratic values. He wants to rule no matter what. And the guardians of Kosovo’s constitution have proved they are willing to serve power and influence instead of the law.

The writer is a graduate from Lund University, in Sweden, with a masters in European Affairs

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