Kosovo: comeback opposition parties in local elections run-offs, recount of votes in Pristina and Prizren

Mon 27 Nov 2017

Kosovo: comeback opposition parties in local elections run-offs, recount of votes in Pristina and Prizren

The preliminary results of Kosovo’s local elections run-offs on 19 November were initially reason for celebration for opposition parties Vetevendosje (VV) and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). However, celebrations came to end for Vetevendosje, after it was announced the votes casted in Kosovo’s capital Pristina and in Prizren, which the opposition party both won, have to be recounted, a blow to all democratic principles and a breach of all legal procedures. Although Vetevendosje’s candidate, incumbent mayor Shpend Ahmeti, won the second round in Pristina, which was a very close race, the Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed the decision made by the Election Complaint and Appeal Panel on 23 November for a full recount of the votes in Pristina and Prizren, even before completion of the counting of all votes casted. Opposition party Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) as well as Junior ruling party of Prime Minister Haradinaj Alliance of the Future of Kosovo (AAK) gained in the second round of the elections. Main ruling party Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) was the biggest loser overall.

In the second round of the local elections, Kosovars cast their votes on their favourite candidate in 19 out of 38 municipalities, where none of the parties obtained majority of the votes during the first round on 22 October. Elections also took place in the mainly Serb-dominated municipality of Partes, where the results of the first round were annulled due to vote manipulations. The turnout was 38.10 per cent, according to the CEC. In the first round, 44 per cent of Kosovars with voting rights headed to the polls.

Good news and bad news                                               
The preliminary results indicate LDK was the biggest winner overall. Compared to the general elections in June, the party’s support increased over the past months. In total, LDK obtained the majority of the votes in eight municipalities, winning four more in the second round, albeit the party won one district less compared to the local elections of 2013. While Vetevendosje, which became the biggest opposition party after June, was not able to claim victory during the first round of the polls, Vetevendosje initially won three municipalities in the second round. In Pristina, Vetevendosje’s mayoral candidate, Shpend Ahmeti, obtained 50.19 per cent of the votes, while LDK’s candidate, Arban Abrashi, won 49.81 per cent. In the country’s second biggest city of Prizren, PDK’s runner-up Shaqir Totaj lost to Vetevendosje’s candidate Mytaher Haskukaj with 49.68 per cent and 50.32 of the votes, respectively. In Kamenica, Vetevendosje obtained 55.69 per cent of the votes, while LDK’s candidate received only 44.31 per cent. In addition to the announcement of the CEC regarding the full recount of the votes in Pristina and Prizren, three MPs of the opposition party were arrested on 24 November, including founder Albin Kurti, after failing to appear in court to stand trial, as they are charged with letting off tear gas in parliament in 2015. 

A surprise winner in the local elections was Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s AAK. In total, the junior ruling party won in seven municipalities. In 2013, AAK won three districts.  

Ruling party PDK lost several strongholds, including Vushtrri/Vucitrna. Compared to the elections in 2013, the main coalition party lost five of its ten districts. However, this result might change due to the recounting of the votes in Prizren. Another ruling party, Alliance New Kosovo (AKR), held control of South Mitrovica. Coalition partner Lista Srpska won the only Serb-dominated district that held run-offs, Kllokot. Overall, the party won all ten Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo.

The local elections of 19 November show the opposition has increased its support in the country, imposing pressure on the coalition, which comprises PDK, AKR, AKK, and other non-Albanian minority parties, including Lista Srpska. The government parties currently hold 63 out of 120 seats in parliament. Especially for the main ruling party PDK the results were disappointing.

Observers positive
The elections were monitored by 12.000 local and international observers. During polling day, CEC spokesman, Valmir Elezi, said that the electoral process was ‘’proceeding smoothly’’. The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) called the elections ‘’genuinely competitive (…), allowing numerous candidates to freely communicate their messages to the voters’’, albeit it expressed its concerns regarding the democratic process in Serb-dominated municipalities. No exceptional incidents were reported.