By Arben Qirezi
Although the local election campaign has yet to start, the opposition Vetevendosje party has already named most of its candidates for mayoral seats.
In a bid to repeat the success it had in the June general elections, when it came in second place, Kosovo’s opposition Vetevendosje movement has announced the names of its mayoral candidates for several towns in the October local elections.
Most other parties have yet to come out with names of candidates, although in some municipalities the names of potential mayors have been revealed.
Vetevendosje’s Shpend Ahmeti, now Mayor of Pristina, and Arber Vllahiu, a former BBC journalist and adviser to former President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga – from the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK – have been officially appointed by their respective parties as candidates to become mayor of Pristina.
The country’s two main parties, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, are yet to propose runners for the capital.
But the most likely candidates for the PDK are the head of the party’s Pristina branch, Lirak Celaj and the Minister of Economic Development, Blerand Stavileci.
The LDK may try to reclaim Pristina with the former mayor, Ismet Beqiri.
The current mayors will likely try their fortunes in most towns of cities, with the exception of Gjakova/Djakovica, and Prizren. Both of these cities are expected to see fresh candidates from all parties.
Kosovo’s second city, Prizren, which the PDK has ruled since 2007, will see a race between the Vetevendosje MP and former UNDP official Mytaher Haskuka and the LDK candidiate, Haxhi Avdyli, a neurosurgeon.
The PDK has not yet named anyone to run in Prizren and is unlikely to run with the current mayor, Ramadan Muja. He has faced a series of trials and retrials for corruption since 2012.
The most interesting candidacy in the country’s third city, Ferizaj/Urosevac, home to the US military base Bondsteel, is that of the turbo-folk popular singer, Labinot Tahiri, from the Alliance New Kosovo, AKR.
The LDK will stick the candidacy of the city’s current mayor, Muharrem Sfarca.
In Gjilan/Gnjilane, in eastern Kosovo, the LDK candidate, the current mayor and party’s vice-president, Lutfi Haziri, will face a challenge from Vetevendosje’s Sami Kurteshi.
He is currently a MP and was formerly the Ombudsperson in Kosovo.
The PDK will run with Zenun Pajaziti, an MP and former Minister of Interior who now heads the PDK’s parliamentary group.
In Peja/Pec, the LDK candidate Gazmend Muhaxheri will be challenged by Vetevendosje’s Bashkim Nurboja, a university teacher and the AAK’s Fatmir Gashi, who comes from the world of business. The PDK has not yet named a candidate for Peja.
So far, Gjakova/Djakovica has only the candidacy of the former Minister of Environment Ardian Gjini, now an MP for the AAK.
The current mayor, Mimoza Kusari, who has been elected to parliament, is unlikely to run again.
Mitrovica is sure to be claimed by AKR’s Agim Bahtiri, who enjoys the support of its local coalition partner, Vetevendosje.
Other parties have not yet named candidates there but the most likely candidates from the PDK and the LDK are former mayor Avni Kastratia and the LDK’s local leader, Safet Kamberi.
Vetevendosje has also named candidates for Vitia/Vitina, Suha Reka/Suva Reka, Istog, Podujevo, Drenas/Glogovac, and Lipjan/Lipljane. The local elections are due on October 22.