First Election in Independent Kosovo
November 9, 2009
Q1: Kosovo is on the eve of its first elections as a sovereign state. What does this mean for the new country?
A1: The upcoming local elections are politically and internationally significant in the evolution of the new state because they will indicate Kosovo’s commitment to democratic principles. A free and fair election in a competitive political climate is the most effective way to demonstrate that Kosovo seeks to be a full member of the international community. Such an election may help convince the five EU members who have until now withheld recognition of Kosovo’s statehood that a stable emerging democracy at the heart of the Balkans contributes to regional stability.
Q2: What progress has Kosovo made a year and a half after gaining statehood?
A2: The recently released European Commission report includes both positive and negative conclusions about Kosovo’s progress. The report is largely positive about institutional development and political stability and largely negative about corruption, judicial reform, and the rule of law, which areas need to be tackled more rigorously by the central and local authorities, with the assistance of international institutions. Kosovo is in the early stages of statehood and faces many of the same problems that newly emergent states confronted throughout Central and Eastern Europe—including inadequate administrative capabilities, limited oversight of governmental bodies, and inability to deliver essential services to the citizens. Kosovo also has additional problems in that Prishtina does not control the entire territory, has a rudimentary security structure, and remains largely dependent on international institutions.
Q3: What is the main challenge that Kosovo currently faces?
A3: Kosovo’s main institutional, governmental, legislative, and economic challenges are outlined in the European Commission report. However, the major challenge in the year ahead will be to maintain social stability during difficult economic times and not to allow radical or populist forces to gain ascendancy or for the public to become disillusioned with the pace of reform. The role of the European Union’s EULEX mission will be essential in assisting the authorities to meet democratic standards of governance and in integrating the country under a single authority. In this context, clean elections are essential for maintaining public faith in Kosovo’s success as a state and eventually as a member of key multinational institutions including the United Nations.
Janusz Bugajski holds the Lavrentis Lavrentiadis chair and is director of the New European Democracies Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
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