Kosovo election winner targets ‘justice and jobs’ over Serbia talks

Albin Kurti's leftist party dominates vote with pledge to fight graft and poverty

Kosovo's leftist Vetevendosje party has said strengthening the country's economy and rule of law will take precedence over negotiations with Serbia, after it dominated parliamentary elections with a pledge to fight poverty and corruption.

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) took 48 per cent in Sunday's ballot, well clear of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) on 17 per cent and the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) on 13 per cent.

Despite securing the clearest national election victory in Kosovo since its 1998-9 war with Serbia, Vetevendosje may have to forge a coalition to cement a majority in the nation’s 120-seat parliament.

Party leader Albin Kurti, who is set to become prime minister for a second time, has ruled out an alliance with the PDK and LDK, which are part of a post-war political establishment that he accuses of misgoverning Kosovo and allowing graft and cronyism to flourish.


He is likely to seek support from deputies representing Kosovo’s ethnic minorities, who are guaranteed 20 seats in parliament, 10 of which automatically go to parties from the Serb community that makes up about 5 per cent of the country’s 1.8 million population.

“We won this referendum for justice and jobs, against state capture and corruption,” said Mr Kurti (45), who served briefly as premier last year before being ousted when a coalition with the LDK collapsed in rancour.

“Forming a team for the dialogue with Serbia will not be our priority... Our priorities are justice and jobs,” he added, noting that negotiations with Belgrade came only “sixth and sometimes seventh” in surveys ranking the concerns of people in Kosovo.

Raised hopes

Mr Kurti's election alliance with Kosovo's popular acting president, Vjosa Osmani, has raised hopes among many people – especially younger Kosovars – that major reform is possible.

“The people of Kosovo punish bad governance, they know when they’ve had enough and when the time has come for a new chapter,” said Ms Osmani (38). “Kosovo will change. It will develop by creating equal opportunities for all.”

More than 100 states, including Ireland, recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, but Serbia does not, and Belgrade continues to exert strong influence in areas of northern Kosovo where ethnic Serbs form a majority.

Talks brokered by the European Union have failed to resolve the dispute, but the bloc says the Balkan neighbours must come to terms to have any hope of securing membership.

Kosovo must "advance on reforms ... as well as on regional co-operation," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said in a joint statement on Monday.

“Kosovo’s European path also goes through the comprehensive normalisation of relations with Serbia and the EU expects the new authorities in Pristina to engage constructively ... and seize the opportunity in front of them to reach a comprehensive agreement.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe