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Vetëvendosje surge deals blow to Kosovo two-party dominance / Guatemalan Mayan leader withstands threats

9 to 15 June

Vetëvendosje supporter holds Albanian flag in election night.
Vetëvendosje supporter holds Albanian flag in election night. Autor/a: Vetëvendosje
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. In a weekend marked by several votes Puerto Rico status referendum, and first round of French legislative election, the Kosovar vote stands as a potential game changer. For first time since independence, centre-left party Vetëvendosje, which has been always in opposition, has emerged as the country’s second strongest, and has options to enter the government. Also speaking about elections, talks between the Conservative Party and the DUP are progressing, which could allow Theresa May to keep her job as UK prime minister after losing the absolute majority in the 8 June poll. On the other side of the Atlantic, continued intimidation against Indigenous leaders and organizations must be regretted —this week, regarding the K’iche’ in Guatemala.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Two-party dominance in Kosovo declines. At the June 11 legislative election, centre-left party Vetëvendosje (Self-determination in Albanian) captured 27% of the votes and secured 31 out of 120 seats in the Kosovo Assembly. Vetëvendosje —a movement-rooted party which has never been part of the Kosovo government— strongly criticizes government-level corruption, opposes making concessions to Serbia, and proclaims the right to self-determination of the entire Albanian people —if necessary by means of a joined Albania-Kosovo state, which the Kosovar Constitution explicitly prohibits and Serbia and the EU directly reject.

The Parliament of Kosovo has largely been dominated so far by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Both parties are dotted by numerous cases of corruption, and have received much criticism over their alleged poor management of the Kosovar economy. Even if both are center-right, their origins are quite different. The LDK has its roots in the Albanian national movement of opposition against Milosevic in the late 1980s, while the PDK brings together former guerrillas and politicians linked to the KLA, or UÇK.

This time, the PDK-led alliance of parties has garnered 34% of the votes, which have translated into 39 MPs. Meanwhile, the LDK-alliance has found itself in the third place —just behind Vetëvendosje— with 26% of the votes and 30 seats. The Serbian government-linked Serbian List has emerged as the fourth largest party, with 9 seats.

It is unclear what kind of coalition government will be formed. One option is to repeat the PDK-LDK, which was already formed after the previous election. But with a public opinion fed up of corruption, and taking into consideration the poor state of the economy, such a power-sharing agreement would only likely help Vetëvendosje to become the largest Kosovar party in the next election, which could bear far-reaching consequences. Some Balkan media are reporting these days that a Vetëvendosje-LDK coalition is becoming a growingly likely scenario.

FURTHERMORE

K’ich’e leader Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic under threat. Chávez has reported being intimidated, along with fellow members of the Council of K’iche’ Peoples (CPK), by a group of armed men, 7 June. The K’iche’ are one of the Mayan peoples inhabiting Guatemala. Several human rights alliances, such as the Mesoamerican Women’s Initiative of Human Rights Defenders or the International Federation of Human Rights are calling for an investigation and protection measures for Chávez Ixcaquic and the other CPK members. Chávez, who is active in the field of education, environmentalism and feminism, carries a long record of defending the rights of her K’iche’ people against multinational companies seeking to exploit natural resources on Indigenous ancestral lands. Threats and killings of Indigenous leaders are a constant scourge in several American countries.

Conservative Party, DUP seek to outline government agreement. Theresa May’s immediate objective of Theresa May —to secure her position as UK prime minister heading a Tory minority government— seems to be closer after one week-long negotiations between her Conservative Party and the Ulster Democratic Party (DUP, a unionist party in Northern Ireland to the right of the conservatives). The deal would ensure parliamentary stability to May’s government. But talks are sparking a lot of controversy in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party believe the UK government is abandoning neutrality —which it should keep under terms of the Good Friday Agreement— regarding the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Project to promote Welsh language in Patagonia marks 20 years. The Celtic language has been spoken in that Argentinian region since 1865, when the first Welsh settlers arrived in Chubut. Their language has been kept until today, with a current estimate of 5,000 speakers. A project to promote the learning of Welsh in the area, for both children and adults, was launched in 1997. Under the project, three teachers from Wales stay for 9 months in Chubut each year. The project receives financing from the Welsh, UK and Chubut governments, as well as the Wales-Argentina Association. It has 1,270 people learning Welsh in Patagonia (the highest figure since the beginning of the initiative).

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