In brief

Vetëvendosje win in Kosovo points to new era

Party leader Albin Kurti says he will seek new direction in relations with Serbia as PM

Albin Kurti votes in election.
Albin Kurti votes in election. Author: Vetëvendosje
For the first time since the 2008 declaration of independence, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK, emerged from the 1990’s independence guerrilla) is likely to be left outside the government of the Balkan country. Sunday’s parliamentary election gave centre-left Vetëvendosje and conservative Democratic League (LDK, the party founded by the so-called father of the Kosovar homeland, Ibrahim Rugova) the possibility to agree on a coalition government without needing support from other parties.

Vetëvendosje leader Albin Kurti will foreseeably be appointed to form a new government, as his party was the most voted (25.5% of the votes, 31 seats out of 120). LDK came in second, at short distance (24.8%, 30 seats). PDK captured 25 seats, AAK 14, the Serbian List 10, with the remaining 10 going to parties belonging to the country’s other minorities.

Kurti is a former activist and former student leader who in 1999 was arrested, tried and sentenced by Serbian courts to 15 years’ imprisonment on charges against the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and terrorism, over his activities for Kosovo independence. He was released in 2001. Four years later he participated in the foundation of Vetëvendosje (“Self-determination” in Albanian).

Vetëvendosje was born as a movement with a strong Albanian nationalist character, opposed to the presence of the United Nations and the EU in Kosovo and, later, to any concessions to Serbia. Later turned into political party, it seeks the union of Kosovo with Albania.

Now, however, Kurti is adopting a more nuanced position. He says that union with Albania will not be possible “in the short term”, and he advocates dialogue with Serbia —“based on reciprocity”, he argues— as well as with the Kosovo Serb community and the EU. It is unlikely that any government deal with the LDK will include the issue of union with Albania.

The fact that, for the first time, two parties not linked to the former independence guerrillas will rule the country has led some analysts to think that the 2019 election may mark the beginning of a new era in the country, which is hit by very high rates of corruption and unemployment. Kurti has vowed to address such problems.