Democratic Empowerment and Transnational Threats

Kosovo’s political crisis: A bump in a twisty road

During this past summer a new political crisis has erupted in Kosovo. After the resignation of the Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and the vote to dissolve the Parliament held by its members, the process of snap elections was formally and substantially initiated. In the meantime international recognition and the normalisation process with Serbia are at an all-time low since 2013.

In mid-July, Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo’s Prime Minister in the past two years, resigned from his position due to its summons at the International Special Court for the crimes of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Haradinaj, a KLA commander during the Serbia-Kosovo conflict in 1998-99, is not new to such allegations: he was indicted and trialled twice at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes in 2005 and 2011, and he was acquitted both times. This time Haradinaj has only been questioned by the judges of the Special Court, while formal charges have not been raised yet.

However, Ramush Haradinaj decided to resign from his role as Head of the Kosovan Government because he considered the position as way too important and honourable for him to stain it with accusations of war crimes. His decision opened a political crisis in a very delicate moment for the country: Serbia-Kosovo relations are at an all-time low since the official beginning of the Brussels diplomatic process between the two in 2013, after Serbian pressure on not granting Kosovo accession in INTERPOL and Kosovo’s response in imposing a 100% tax raise on Serbian goods sold in the country. The latter is also one of the biggest entails of Haradinaj’s premiership, since the tax continues to be in place even now.

After Haradinaj’s resignation, Kosovo’s member of the legislative assembly voted to dissolve the parliament (with 89 votes out of 120 members) on an extraordinary session on 22 August, thus making the crisis and the snap elections inevitable. Today’s configuration of the parliament stems from the 2017 elections. In that round, voters’ turnout was around 41%, 747,228 voters out of 1,888,059 registered citizens.[1] The relative majority of the votes (245,627 votes, representing 33.74% of the total) was won by a wide coalition: its two main parties were Kosovo’s Democratic Party (KDP) – the party of the President of the Republic of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi – and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AFK) – Haradinaj’s party. The Self-Determination Movement party came in second place (200,135; i.e. 27.49%), and the Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK) was third overall (185,884; i.e. 25.53%).[2]

The snap elections will take place on 6 October, as decided by President Hashim Thaçi. A little more than three weeks from now Kosovo’s parliament – and thus government – could change shape. However, there are no clear projections on voters’ intentions, with high-profile politicians coming from different parties claiming the relative majority of the votes for their own party. Nearly all major parties retain that they will perform better than the others in the next elections. However, this is clearly a campaign strategy as to present oneself as the winning party in order to catalyse the maximum of the votes.

Besides that, it would not come as a surprise if the AFK party (i.e. Haradinaj’s one) would emerge as the winning one. Haradinaj’s tough stance against Serbia – with the previously mentioned 100% tax on Serbian goods – has been received with enthusiasm by many Kosovar citizens. A clear win for AFK with a strong increase in seats in the parliament could result in the persistence – or even strengthening – of the political and diplomatic stalemate between Pristina and Belgrade. In the past year, Kosovo-Serbia relations have virtually collapsed, worsening month after month. Boosting once again the diplomatic process between the two actors is proving to be a very difficult task. However, any sound strategy of trying to resolve Kosovo’s recognition issue must rely on two different aspects from the Kosovan side.

The first and most important one regards the elephant in the room: the 100% tax on Serbian goods. Even though it was criticised by the wide majority of international actors, the tax can be now used as a leverage to push Serbian officials and authorities to resume the negotiation talks inside the framework of the Brussels normalisation process. It is vitally important for both Kosovo and Serbia to reach an agreement for the so-called Kosovo issue, since it would give them the green light for EU accession and NATO membership – the latter concerning more Kosovo than Serbia, due to Serbia’s reluctance in NATO’s actions. Pristina could therefore organise further meetings with the promise of curbing by a certain percentage the tax on Serbian goods, signalling its will to begin once again the normalisation process.

The second aspect concerns the establishment of a clear line of command during these possible future talks. In the past year, especially with the joint proposal of the two respective Presidents of the Republic for a possible border correction between the two countries, there was some degree of institutional friction in Kosovo. Indeed, foreign policy is a domain pertaining to the government, and in this scenario the Prime Minister has a crucial role in Kosovo’s external relations. Therefore, Thaçi’s activism and the way he tried to resolve the crisis seemed to overcome his own institutional powers and limits, entering “de facto” in the government’s affairs. In the coming months and years, it will be very important to have a clear policy direction, with defined measures and instruments, regarding the normalisation process with Serbia.

[1] Refer to the data from Kosovo’s Central Election Commission, available (in Albanian and Serbian) here:

[2] Refer to the data from Kosovo’s Central Election Commission – disaggregated by party/coalition – available (in Albanian and Serbian) here:

By Fabio Seferi

Fabio holds a Master's Degree in International Relations and European Studies from the University of Florence, Italy. His Master's thesis focused on the role and influence of Russia, Turkey and China in the Western Balkans. He has been Programme Assistant Intern at the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank, and Ad-Hoc Research Assistant for The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. Fabio’s main research interests focus on conflicts, political violence, hybrid warfare, intelligence analysis and organised crime.

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