Vince Albin Kurti, the “Che of Kosovo” who dreams of Greater Albania

Florion Goga / Reuters

Albin Kurti, leader of the Self-Determination movement (Vetevendosje party), speaks to supporters after preliminary results of the parliamentary election in Pristina, Kosovo, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Florion Goga

It is called “Self-determination”, Vetëvendosje, the party that triumphed in the parliamentary elections in Kosovo. It wasn’t a bolt from the blue. The main opposition party woke up this morning far ahead of its political opponents: with 99% of the ballots scrutinized, the Albanian anti-establishment nationalist left party, led by Albin Kurti, won 48.19% of the votes. Second force in the country, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of outgoing President Hashim Thaci with 17.35%, while the Democratic League (LDK), center-right formation of outgoing premier Avdullah Hoti, stopped at 13, 8%.

Numbers that confirm what the voters already expressed in 2019 (2.5% less than those who went to the polling station yesterday) when “Self-determination” had received the task of forming a government for the first time in its history. Executive that was cemented with the other opposition actor, that LDK of which Vjosa Osmani was the face and representation – university professor by profession who this time presented herself alone, but in coalition with the VV – after having collected the legacy of Ibrahim Rugova, founder of the League and pacifist leader. An alliance on paper that is difficult to coexist given their belonging to ideologically non-overlapping alignments, but linked by an extremist spirit and the common vision of a Kosovo independent of any type of relationship with Serbia. Apparently, arguments not sufficient to guarantee the solidity of the government, at least in those circumstances.

The new elections, in fact, became necessary when the LDK had decided to discourage Prime Minister Kurti in March 2020, moving back to the opposition and giving life to the formation of an interim government chaired by Avdullah Hoti (LDK) . Then, at the end of the year, the double turning point came. In November, President Thaci was indicted by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, a body based in The Hague with the task of investigating the war crimes committed by the Kosovo Army during the war between 1998 and 1999, forcing him to resign and replaced by Osmani herself, at the time president of the Parliament. Then, just a month later, the Constitutional Court annulled the previous vote of confidence in the Hoti government, as among the voters was the deputy Eten Arifi, sentenced in 2019 to one year and three months for corruption. Moral of the story: everything to be redone and back to the polls. Ballots that now open scenarios of difficult prediction, not only for the formation of the government but also for the entire Balkan area. A step at a time.

With consensus doubled in just one year, the VV is certainly the undisputed winner of these elections, even if the current electoral force does not exempt it from interacting with other political forces to start governing. Without an absolute majority, in fact, the fifth consultations in the history of the country will take place since 2008, the year of unilateral independence. These negotiations are expected to be very complicated due to the great fragmentation that characterizes national politics. To begin with, of the 120 parliamentary seats surely about twenty will go to the minorities, composed of Bosniaks, Roma, Gorani, Turks but, above all, Serbs, a population with whom Kurti has no intention of talking. “The people spoke with one voice, taking their fate into their own hands. We won this referendum for justice and occupation, against power and corruption to conquer the state. Our priorities are justice and work ”, were Kurti’s first words.

A matter of priority, in fact, which does not include the establishment of dialogue with the historical and never tolerated Serbian neighbors, with whom mediation has been underway for ten years to achieve a normalization of relations. “This issue is in sixth or seventh place” on the government agenda, he stressed. Kurti’s electoral satisfaction is also shared by Osmani, expelled from the LKD to give life to Guxo! (“Dare!”) In support of the VV, with the promise of his future candidacy in the presidential elections scheduled in two months.

Kurti, nicknamed the Kosovar “Che”, has a long-standing policy behind him, started by leaders of student demonstrations in response to the repressions of the government of Slobodan Milosevic against the Albanian minority, which cost him two years in Serbian prisons. Even after the end of the war and the subsequent autonomy recognized by many but not all (Russia and China are missing, to begin with) the radical and intransigent positions were not abandoned by Kurti. This time, rather, they were hurled against a political class, national and local, corrupt and involved in illicit trade with a West that Kurti had never supported. A relationship that never blossomed and was further exacerbated by recent episodes, such as the censorship motion supported by the US for his removal two months after the first election, defined as a “coup”. Furthermore, in 2015, the arrest and consequent condemnation for the protests against the government, following the repeated excesses in Parliament where he came to throw tear gas to prevent the approval of a series of agreements with Serbia under the eyes of the EU, prevented him from presenting himself as leaders in these elections. But not to win them.

REUTERS

Vetevendosje (Self-determination) party leader Albin Kurti speaks during a new conference after preliminary results of the parliamentary election in Pristina, Kosovo, February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga

His victory, therefore, makes it difficult to achieve that stability which the European Union has been promoting for about a decade. “We look forward to the inauguration of the new Parliament and the government, as well as the election of the new president”, write the High Representative, Josep Borrell, and the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Varhelyi, commenting on Sunday’s elections at which were attended by Union election observers. Brussels assures how “it will continue to collaborate with the authorities to support the country in achieving tangible progress along the European path”, which can only be achieved through “structural reforms and regional cooperation”. On the other hand, the European integration of Kosovo “also involves the normalization of relations with Serbia”, with which the EU “trusts that the new authorities will collaborate constructively with a view to continuing the meetings of the dialogue mediated by the EU and take the opportunity they have to reach a global agreement ”. Difficult to hear the first speeches of the newly elected Kurti.

Also because the attempt, timid it must be said, of distention between the two countries, which began in Washington last September at the instigation of Donald Trump, lasted very little. A week before the inauguration of Joe Biden, the interim president Vjosa Osmani had already feared the idea of ​​re-discussing the agreement, destined to become waste paper, moved more by the will of Trump in emerging as the architect of Balkan peace before the elections rather than the aim of ending the escalation of tension in the region. What Vetëvendosje shouts at the new US administration is a return to the past, when the US was only committed to the official recognition of Kosovo as a full-fledged state, stifling the demands of Belgrade, never heard so much by Washington as in the last four years by times of Yugoslav disintegration.

For the nationalists of Vetëvendosje and Guxo !, the true project of unification must look to Albania, repeatedly reiterating the promise of wanting to subject the population to a referendum, without taking into account how Tirana has no need to move in this direction . And, above all, ignoring the ever-present aspirations of the Serbian minorities, pushed by Belgrade, for a construction of “Greater Albania”, Kosovo included.

REUTERS

Vetevendosje (Self-determination) party leader Albin Kurti speaks during a news conference after preliminary results of the parliamentary election in Pristina, Kosovo, February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga

The procedure foresees that the election of the prime minister arrives within two months from the inauguration of the Parliament. If after three rounds of voting no figure emerges, it is possible to return to early elections. The most convenient way for the formation of the Government would be to turn to minorities and thus find a majority that would guarantee not only Kurti to be elected, but also to reposition itself on the axis requested by the EU and the US and thus pursue the path of dialogue with Belgrade.

Although the absolute majority has not been achieved numerically, Kurti is well aware of the extra weapon in his possession. On his side there has been the intolerance of young people for the inability of a corrupt political class that cannot guarantee economic security. L’middle age in fact it is around 30 years old, compared to a youth unemployment that affects half of the population. Young people who braved the frost and the snow that fell below -10 degrees, beyond the pandemic, to get in line at the polls and who are now asking the nationalists to keep their promises. Already in November the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, had made an appeal to the president-elect Joe Biden to prevent the escalation of tension, avoiding “leaving our children a frozen conflict” that would risk exploding as in Nagorno Karabakh. The diplomatic path between Belgrade and Pristina, therefore, still remains full of obstacles twenty-three years after the end of the war.


Source: Huffington Post Italy Athena2 by www.huffingtonpost.it.

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