A snap parliamentary election will be held in a few weeks after Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s government was dismissed via a no-confidence vote on May 10th by the Kosovo Parliament, with the help of President Hashim Thaci.
“Seventy-eight MPs in the 120-seat parliament voted to dismiss [Mustafa’s] cabinet, which the opposition had accused of failing to meet its campaign pledges and creating public distrust.”
Over the past year, Kosovo has seen many anti-government protests. Many of the protesters’ grievances surrounded agreements with Serbia and Montenegro, with the protesters claiming the agreements are were unconstitutional. Police have even resorted to deploying tear gas on multiple occasions inside Parliament, and violence has occurred during street protests.
Journalist Valon Syla stated, “Mustafa's decision not to run for Prime Minister is a relief for the LDK [Democratic League of Kosovo], which can now put the blame for any previous failures on Mustafa’s premiership.”
Mustafa, who had served as prime minister since 2014, maintains that his government successfully tackled unemployment and kept the public debt low. He has also argued, “In my government there are no corrupt people.”
Opposition party NISMA claims “our country needs a new direction” and has been “demanding the fall of the government for two years” over a controversial border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and new laws granting Serb minorities in Kosovo more rights and power.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci – who leads the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) – dissolved Kosovo’s parliament following the no-confidence vote. A few days later he set the parliamentary elections for June 11. He stated he will not be participating in the election. According to Balkan Insight, “According to [Pristina-based journalist and publisher, Valon Syla] there is a difference in the political significance of Thaci’s and Mustafa’s decisions not to run for office.” Syla said, “Mustafa is now almost without any political influence, while Thaci, although he is not participating in these elections, still resonates with political impact and power.”
“In this competition in which one leader is falling [Mustafa] and a new one is rising, the PDK structures will make an effort to be more successful than they were in the former era,” said Pristina-based analyst Behlul Beqaj.
Political unrest and stalled EU accession talks
The European Union (EU) had originally mandated that for accession talks to occur, two things had to happen. First, border demarcation with Montenegro had to be completed. Second, there had to be visible progress in fight against corruption.
Following the no-confidence vote in parliament, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn tweeted “regret today’s no-confidence vote of the Kosovo Assembly. Pol leaders, institutions mustn’t lose sight of great challenges Kosovo faces.”
The latest crisis could complicate several open issues between Kosovo and its neighbors, including the border dispute between Montenegro and EU-sponsored talks about normalizing relations with Serbia.
The EU has stated that it won’t proceed with visa liberalization for Kosovo, which is an important internal issue in Kosovo, until the border issues with Montenegro are resolved. Until the new snap elections are complete, talks between Kosovo and Serbia will likely be put on hold, says Reuters.
Al Jazeera said, “The coalition had been deadlocked for months, unable to pass crucial regulation on matters such as a border agreement with Montenegro, minority rights and even the armed forces.”
President Hashim Thaci – criminal past and shady behavior
President Hashim Thaci was first elected in February 2016, despite being viewed as a “failed foreign minister” by many.
Thaci was once identified as one of the “biggest fish” in organized crime in a 2011 Guardian article reporting on leaked Council of Europe documents, which included allegations of Thaci being “head of a ‘mafia-like’ network responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.”
In the documents, “...the geographical spread of Kosovo’s criminal gangs is set out, alongside the details of alleged familial and business links.”
Documents also stated that “Thaqi was commonly identified [in research by NATO intel analysts], and cited in secret intelligence reports, as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses.’”
However, Thaci was publicly backed by NATO powers. His government claimed that the allegations were a ploy by a Serbian-Russian alliance to destabilize Kosovo.
He was once described as “the country’s most-powerful public figure” in a 2015 Politico article titled “The bullies who run Kosovo.”
In June 2016, the Kosovo Anti-Corruption Agency began a financial investigation into Thaci and prime minister Mustafa’s declared assets.
In April 2017, Belgrade-based Blic newspaper began publishing a series of articles building off COE documents as well as evidence from another report by Serbia’s Security Information Agency (BIA).
The BIA report claimed that Thaci’s Drenica Group (affiliated with the Albanian mafia) “controls between 10 and 15 percent of all criminal dealings in Kosovo and Metohija that include smuggling arms, stolen cars, fuel ‘and partially cigarettes – as well as prostitution.’”
Blic also stated that, according to the BND, the Drenica Group had established contacts with terrorists and organized criminal groups from Chechnya.
In April, Thaci came under fire from Western allies after trying to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) (“tasked mainly with disaster response and de-mining”) into a “fully fledged army” and circumventing constitutional requirements to do so, essentially denying ethnic minorities the right to vote. (Politico)Some analysts said he was leveraging this to boost PDK and force an early parliamentary election.
In May, Thaci made harsh statements about the EU and called for a pan-Albanian state if EU the integration process falters. His statements drew wide criticism from regional expert