ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia Mulls Price Of Extending Elections To Kosovo

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By Bojana Barlovac

Serbia’s Ministry of Public Administration and Local Government is busy preparing electoral rolls. The job must be done by March 7 when the country, according to election law, is to call parliamentary and local elections, which then must be held no later than May 6.

But it remains unclear whether the country will hold local elections also in Serb-run parts of northern Kosovo.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 but Serbia’s 2006 constitution states that Kosovo is still part of its territory, and nationalist opinion would fiercely oppose any attempt to exclude Kosovo from nationwide elections.

Oliver Ivanovic, State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija, said the government has yet to decide whether to hold both general and local elections in Kosovo, but he doubts that Kosovo will be left out.

“I believe they will be organised [there] as it would be politically inconceivable not to hold them [there] in 2012 when they were held [in Kosovo] in the 2008 elections,” Ivanovic noted.

A similar answer came from Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, who in December said elections would be held in Kosovo at the same time as the rest of Serbia, just as the Constitution indicated.

Belgrade organised both parliamentary and local elections in Serb-majority areas in Kosovo in 2008, but the UN authority in Kosovo, UNMIK, as well as the Kosovo government, condemned the polls as illegitimate.

Holding local elections in the North is especially problematic, as they will reinforce Serbia’s so-called “paralel institutions” in the North.

These post offices, schools and municipal administrations ignore the Kosovo government and depend for their support and money on Belgrade.

Abandoning paralel insititutions was a condition that Germany set for Serbia during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the Balkans in August if Belgrade wants to pursue EU integration.

Serbia’s President, Boris Tadic, replied that Serbia would not abandon its insitutions in Kosovo, saying they were legitimate as their representatives had been elected democratically.

As result of this stance, and after clashes later erupted in the North in July, the EU on December 9 put Serbia’s EU candidacy bid on hold.

EU foreign ministers are supposed to decide in February on whether to grant Serbia candidate status in March.

Some opposition parties in Serbia say they suspect that the government will go for parliamentary but not local elections in Kosovo, as holding the latter would represent open defiance of the EU’s stated wishes for the region.

“Given that this government is absolutely dependent politically and a puppet [of the EU] I don’t think local elections will be called [in Kosovo],” Marko Jaksic, from the opposition nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, said.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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