Kosovo stands at a critical juncture. This is a phrase often used to describe the notorious political scenery which has plunged into a long period of crises since 2014. For citizens of Kosovo, the current crisis feels like a trip down the memory lane. A long wait for a decision that will put an end to a debate similar to that of 2014, however, this time the main characters seem to have switched positions.
Once again, the Constitutional Court is set to give yet another historic decision, (re)shaping and determining the democratic future of the country. Furthermore, the decision to be delivered on the 29th of May will clearly not satisfy all the parties involved, henceforth risking the internal destabilization of the country as both scenarios can further deepen the political polarization between political elites. The pressure multiplies following citizens’ willingness to move the protest from the windows and pots to the streets – albeit respecting the rules of physical distancing.
The current political crisis in Kosovo is of another dimension, as it has emerged in the midst of the storm caused by the COVID19 pandemic. The ways that the political elites will manage the situation is expected to weigh differently in a world in which civil liberties and democratic rules have been suspended for an unforeseeable period. Furthermore, it will be detrimental for Kosovo which has been stuck in the hybrid status quo on its way to democracy.
Facing an unprecedented health emergency and the upcoming economic crisis which is shaking the grounds of the most economically developed countries, Kosovo is lagging behind in having a strategy to lift the measures and protect the economy and financial markets from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Instead, the public opinion in Kosovo seems to be highly focused on what the verdict of the Constitutional Court will be.
There are two potential scenarios expected to be provided by the Constitutional Court after the decision to temporarily suspended the President’s decree to give a mandate to LDK and co.
The first scenario includes an early parliamentary election to take place by the end of the year (following the case of Serbia to hold an election in June and BiH will follow with a local election in October, while North Macedonia has not declared any specific date yet). This, however, can have serious implications, limiting the ability of the caretaker government to undertake decisions to gradually restore and recover the country in the post-pandemic period. Challenges derive not only from limited competences of a caretaker government but also from the lack of political will of all other political actors to support Vetëvendosje in this regard.
The second scenario is that the Constitutional Court rejects the stance of Vetëvendosje that a no-confidence vote against the government automatically leads to a snap election. Thus, implicitly providing endorsement and paving the constitutional way to form a new government by passing the mandate to the second winning party – in this case, the former junior partner in the government, the LDK. This alternative, however, puts the democratic efforts made in the past twenty years into jeopardy, as the election and the citizens can be re-directed by the parties in the Assembly whenever it may suit their interests.
This political Gordian knot is pulled tighter by the dialogue with Serbia. Frequently, the political debates triggered by the events in the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia have been some of the key drivers behind the internal political turmoil. Furthermore, the political elites in Kosovo have been ceaselessly juggling and using the dialogue to survive politically. This is best reflected by the fact that two governments have changed within a period of one year.
In a more internationally consolidated country, the center of the debate about the political future of the country would revolve around the pandemic and its aftermath. However, in the case of Kosovo, the political status and international fate are highly determined by the outcome of the dialogue with Serbia. As such, the strategic foresight in Kosovo includes countless formulas determined not only by the internal developments but also by geopolitical factors heavily depending on the outcome of the U.S. election and the EU readiness for the final push toward a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. A less unpredictable factor in terms of internal political power is the presidential election in Serbia to be held in June, the outcome of which is certainly a strengthened role of the current President of Serbia.
While the main counterpart in the dialogue, President Vučić will be further consolidating his already unquestionable political position through elections, Kosovo represents the only missing part in the process. Seemingly, there is an urgent need to establish a government that will easily fit in the existing complex dialogue jigsaw. The highest priority of the government will be the final deal with Serbia, while political stances of the LDK and other potential government partners toward the dialogue have been ambiguous and shallow without clear details about the red lines. The lack of clear coordination between government coalition partners had had a detrimental impact on the work of Vetëvendosje and LDK and the partnership between them, thus, defining the smallest details is imperative before heading back to the negotiation table. Kosovo cannot afford another round of institutional crises triggered by the deeply divided leader of the country.
Kosovo stands less than two weeks away from the biggest political juncture which will not only determine the future of democracy – albeit fragile and flawed – but it will determine our fate as a country and our international fate in a disrupted world.