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Can the new government change Kosovo’s fortunes?

By Alon Ben-Meir and Arbana Xharra - posted Friday, 8 November 2019

There is a new political day dawning in Kosovo-the newest, but a troubled country in Europe. The last 20 years were marred by bad governance, high unemployment, and pervasive corruption in and outside the government. Those who once bravely fought for the country's freedom failed to secure a functioning democracy able to responsibly address the public's aspirations. In his first trip to Kosovo after the end of the 1999 war between Kosovo and Serbia, US President Bill Clinton told the Kosovo Albanian crowd greeting him, "We won the war. But listen: Only you can win the peace. The time for fighting is passed."

Sadly though, those who fought gallantly with the support of NATO and won the war against Serbia have lost their way. Instead of focusing on what's best for the country, they concentrated on what serves them best. They ended up losing public confidence and trust, which explains their astounding defeat on October 6.

The two leading winners are the leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje party led by Albin Kurti, which garnered 25.6 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by Isa Mustafa, albeit Vjosa Osmani led the campaign and won, with 24.9 percent. The biggest loser is the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which has been in power since 2007, currently led by Kadri Veseli. The party leaders were busy enriching themselves while ignoring the needs of their fellow citizens.


The public dreamed of being free, secure, and prosperous following a horrifying war that exacted so much pain, suffering, loss of life, and widespread destruction. The results of the recent parliamentary election clearly demonstrated that people are fed up and want change-and they want it now.

Notwithstanding their lack of experience in governing, the new leaders, Mr. Kurti and Ms. Osmani, are young, visionary, and understand the plight and the needs of their people. Even though they may not have, as of now, a fully articulated socio-political and economic development plan, they have the potential to serve their country's interests best. They are not tainted with corruption and are committed to change the fortunes of their country, which faces multiple and profound domestic and foreign problems.

The reactions to the drastically changing political landscape run the gamut from those like Astrit Gashi, a political analyst who is hopeful that in spite of prevailing skepticism, the new government will usher in important change. He stated that "I expect that new political scene will banish the instilled culture of impunity for politicians that have violated the law. I also expect the law to treat all citizens equally."

Others like Florian Qehaja, the Executive Director of Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS), expects some but certainly not major changes. "There is a general societal fatigue", he said, "which has been accumulated due to corrupted political elite as well as increased populism in the West…I expect some minimal changes from these elections."

And there are individuals including Rron Gjinovci, a political analyst who is rather doubtful, stating that "Their discourse (Kurti and Osmani) is totally unclear, with lack of precision and with populist connotation all over. This convinces me that the change will be symbolic and formal…"

Regardless of the lack of experience of the newly elected leaders and the insurmountable problems that face the nation, a change in direction is critical before the country becomes a failed state. But judging them based on their personality, experiences, and commitment to affect a positive change, they certainly deserve the public's support along with all public institutions who have serious stakes in their success, but more important the future wellbeing of the country.


To that end, as soon as they form a new government, Kurti and Osmani should embark on a practical national plan that can be implemented during their first term in office. They must keep in mind though, that they will face a) resistance from the bureaucrats who have vested interests in the current corrupt system, b) difficulties emanating from the lack of human and financial resources, and c) public cynicism and a serious lack of trust in government officials.

The two leading parties may not concur on everything, but they agree on much of what's ailing the country, which they must address in a systematic way, stay the course, demonstrate accountability and transparency, and remain true to the promises and commitments they make to the public.

First, they should invite the ethnic minorities along with the Serbian parliamentarians, who each are granted 10 seats in the parliament, to join the government. This in and of itself will demonstrate the new leadership's intent to form a coalition government that represents the people regardless of their ethnicity. Even though the Serbians may refuse to join the government, it is important for Mr. Kurti and Ms. Osmani to demonstrate that Kosovar Serbs are an integral part of the population, and they have a place in the government.

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About the Authors

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

Arbana Xharra authored a series of investigative reports on religious extremists and Turkey's Islamic agenda operating in the Balkans. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, and was a 2015 recipient of the International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Alon Ben-Meir
All articles by Arbana Xharra

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