KOSOVO: Opposition Vetevendosje Movement Eyes Landslide Win in Kosovo Election
Xhorxhina Bami and Perparim Isufi Pristina BIRN February 14, 202122:17
With over 50 per cent of votes counted, the left-wing opposition nationalist party was heading towards a thumping victory in Sunday’s legislative elections – far ahead of its nearest rivals.
Courtesy of Balkan Insight [link of the website: https://balkaninsight.com]
The opposition Vetevendosje party was on course for a landslide victory in snap parliamentary elections in Kosovo on Sunday, on a day that its leader and prime ministerial candidate, Albin Kurti, described as a “bright day” when he cast his ballot at a Pristina polling centre in the morning.
Preliminary results published by the Central Election Commission, CEC, with more than 57 per cent of the votes counted, gave Vetevendosje more than 48 per cent of the votes.
This was far ahead of its closest rivals, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, which respectively won 18.1 and 13.6 per cent of votes cast.
Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, was predicted to win just around 8 per cent of the votes.
However, Fatmir Limaj’s Social Democratic Initiative, NISMA, according to preliminary results, will not enter parliament after failing to cross the 5-per-cent electoral threshold.
“Turnout was satisfactory for our democracy and the word ‘referendum’ that we used [in the electoral campaign] was proper,” Albulena Haxhiu of Vetevendosje said.
However, she called on Vetevendosje supporters to keep the victory low profile and stay away from crowded public areas.
“We call on citizens to celebrate with their families. It is important to not celebrate in city squares because of the pandemic”, Haxhiu said, as many Vetevendosje supporters headed to the streets and squares to celebrate.
More than 844,000 votes were cast out of a total electorate of around 1.8 million despite the heavy snow that blanketed the country during the last two days.
Exit polls suggested that Vetevendosje would win 53 to 55 of the 120 seats in parliament. That result would mean Kurti would find it easy to form a government without needing coalition partners among his rivals.
Snap elections were triggered in December 2020, when the Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled that the coalition government led by Avdullah Hoti’s LDK was illegitimate because it had been voted into office with the help of an invalid vote cast by an MP with a criminal conviction in the last three years.
Hoti had become prime minister after a government led by Kurti – which had come to power following previous snap elections in October 2019 – was ousted after only 51 days in the office.
While the elections were held for a new parliament, the race for the post of prime minister was also in the spotlight in the ten-day campaign, with Kurti of Vetevendosje, Hoti of the LDK and Enver Hoxhaj of the PDK all in the frame.
For Kurti, Sunday’s election was his third pitch for the post of PM – although he is barred from seeking an MP’s seat following the 2020 Constitutional Court verdict that ruled that no one sentenced for a crime in the last three years can sit in parliament.
The voting process did not pass without irregularities.
The CEC decided at 2.30pm on Sunday to allow voters with expired IDs to cast ballots, whereas conditional voting for citizens who could not find their names in the final voting lists queued for hours to vote, as polling stations lacked the proper envelopes used to send these ballots and secured them at the last minute. Special polling stations have separate places for conditional voting and normal voting.
The big queues caused various affrays and much disrespect for social distancing measures.
While the OSCE helped many blind citizens to vote, many other people with special needs were not able to vote due to a lack of infrastructure and access issues.
Also, 3 per cent of polling stations opened later than the designated 7am start.
A few incidents between commissioners, or commissioners with citizens, occurred. Police intervened to stop a physical altercation between commissioners from Vetevendosje and the PDK at a polling centre in a village in Skenderaj/Srbica. Another incident in Skenderaj/Srbica also involved PDK and Vetevendosje commissioners.
Many citizens and BIRN teams on the ground reported that access to polling stations was difficult due to roads being blocked by snow.
Finally, there were reports of citizens voting twice or even four times in the Serb-majority municipality of North Mitrovica. After prosecutors questioned commissioners on this, most of them denied claims of double voting in the Serb-run north.
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