Most likely, Albin Kurti will win the election. For many reasons, but, perhaps, most importantly, he and his party have never been in power. People all over Kosovo are really tired. They want a change. The deteriorating social, political and economic situation has put people in a situation where they will vote hoping, but also being very skeptical at the same time. Kurti is not a pure hope, he is not the light at the end of the tunnel which assures you that you are coming out of the dark, but more like the light you enjoy, yet fear that it might be the train that is coming in your direction.
This impression of mine was reinforced by the Hetemi family living in Leposaviq/Leposavić, whom Kurti met during the first day of the campaign. Since the war, no Kosovar politician has visited this family of a martyred woman who was a KLA fighter. Although Kosovo Serb citizens may think that veterans, families of martyrs and killed civilians are honored and respected in Kosovo, the truth is quite the opposite. They are largely instrumentalized for political purposes and, at the end of the day, they remain abandoned in poverty.
A man who spoke on behalf of the Hetemi family, visited by Kurti in Leposaviq/Leposavić, has four brothers, all of them being unemployed and in serious economic hardship. This man stated that Kosovo’s freedom (from the Milošević regime) used to be his dream; however, he was very disappointed. Not long afterwards, he stood in front of Kurti, without being shy as the citizens usually are in front of politicians: “My other dream is to see Vetevendosje in power, but if it (Vetevendosje) continues like the others, then the worst is about to come to us”. So, both hope and fear in a very powerful sentence. The number of this kind of people in Kosovo, with these economic conditions and these thoughts, is extremely large, which increases Kurti’s chances of winning.
People in Kosovo do not seem to have any other alternative. It is morally justifiable to try what you have not tried, but, rationally, the decision is very difficult. Kurti is a great orator, a man of extraordinary culture and knowledge; however, he lacks the concrete ideas whenever he appears in the media to talk about his possible governance. Kurti speaks beautifully, he is able to repeat the same thing in 7 different sentences, each being more beautiful than the other, yet he fails to be concrete, most likely because he lacks a detailed plan or program for the government. This scares anyone who aims to act morally right by voting for change, as the fear that represents the rational is overwhelming. And yet, no matter how rational the fear is, it remains a fear and should not overpower the will for freedom, justice and equality. I think that the will for freedom will prevail. The situation is so difficult for Kosovar citizens that they can no longer be controlled by fear. They have nothing to lose, except poverty and structural oppression.
On the other hand, there is Kurti’s opponent, a woman, Vjosa Osmani. We, Kosovars, should be proud to be at a stage where a woman and a man, both young and uncorrupted, are competing in a democratic electoral process, especially compared to neighboring countries, without exception. Indeed, we seem to have pretty much overcome patriarchalism, but will we defeat it on the election day? Will Kosovars vote for a woman as future Prime Minister on October 6th election? Will Kosovar men vote for an individual whose gender they see as inferior? What about their wives, will they be free enough to vote for a person of their gender? I doubt it very much, but I would be very proud if the opposite happened. Moreover, can Kosovars believe that change can come from a party that has been in power for too long?
Symbolically, in this election, Kosovars have the luxury of choosing between a man of political and personal qualities (also flawed, of course) and a woman of both professional and political qualities (of course, flawed) who, despite what is expected in a patriarchal society, was a revolutionary against her old-school party (LDK), to the extent that they were forced to nominate her for prime minister because of the massive support she had for her party membership. Both represent rebellion in some way, each in their own quantity and manner.
On the other hand, there is the discredited, the so-called “war wing”, which is now known in the subconsciousness of Kosovars as the wing of corruption. They, especially the PDK, have installed their clientele in public institutions. However, over the years of governing together, even with Vjosa Osmani’s party, they have shared this massive clientele of voters. Especially in the last two years when the entire war wing, which Srpska Lista backed and made possible, ruled together, each installing its own clientele. However, in this election, the clientele will be competing against each other and the expected outcome may not be the same as that of the previous election, when this wing ran together. Now each party of the “war wing” will mobilize its clientele against everyone else. Nevertheless, youth unemployment under the age of 25 is 54% according to state measurements. Moreover, if we add here the number of unemployed over 25 years of age, it turns out that most people are not the direct clients of parties. Therefore, the chances are small that any “war wing” party is going to be the second, let alone the first.
Regardless of who wins, they will have to deal with negotiations with Serbia, or, as now everybody knows, including Kurti, with “the dialogue with Serbia”. This softer expression tries to hide the truth for both parties – for Kosovo, because Serbia does not recognize it and a dialogue exists only between equals; and for Serbia, because negotiations are not about what you consider to be a part of you. So, Kosovo hides inequality in relation to Serbia in this format of negotiations, and Serbia hides the fact that in these negotiations it is negotiating what its Constitution recognizes as a part of that state, thus Serbia’s Constitution is being negotiated.
While Serbs may fear the prospect of Kurti being Kosovo’s prime minister and the effects they expect of a “radical Kurti” in these negotiations, the impression of all of us in Kosovo is that Kurti has already indicated seriously that he will be, as Trump would call it: “flexible”. He has not mentioned the National Union in this campaign, neither in the previous election campaign, except when asked by journalists, and even states that now is not the time for the Albanian National Union. He has already said that the 100% tax on Serbian products is not his policy, he will use “reciprocity” instead of this tax, whatever that might mean. There will be negotiations and negotiations will proceed as the big Western powers demand, with some Balkan elements that may bring a confrontation between Kurti and Vučić.
In summary, what we can expect from this election in Kosovo is the formal and symbolic change in the short run, which will lead all parties to modernize in the medium to long run. On the other hand, for improvements in our daily lives we have to fight through activism and other civic tools, as we did and as we are currently doing.