October 28, 2004
KOSOVO ELECTIONS: 'DARK CLOUDS' OVER PROSPECT OF MULTI-ETHNIC SOCIETY
** Kosovar dailies see a step towards "real democracy and greater transparency."
** The "almost total absence" of Serb voter participation is "evidence of the UN's failure."
** Observers split on election ramifications.
** Several dailies foresee an independent Kosovo.
'A new epoch for Kosovo'-- Optimistic Kosovar papers hailed the "peaceful, democrat, incident-free" poll as the "best thing that could happen" for Kosovo. It "has the talent, opportunity and full energy to build a western democracy," asserted pro-LDK Bota Sot. Outlets such as independent Zeri urged the global community "not to waste Kosovo's time" and quickly confirm Kosovo's "independent and sovereign" status. Cautious writers held that the "record number of abstainers" in the election proved "dissatisfaction with the current situation." Independent Koha Ditore labeled the "almost total" Serb boycott "bad news."
Serbs 'weakened their own position'-- Noting how the "Serbian minority deserted the polling stations," Euro dailies agreed that the "ethnically cleansed" elections "solved nothing." Italy's conservative La Nazione termed the boycott "evidence of the UN's failure" to create a "truly multi-ethnic society." Belgrade's pro-government Politika concluded that Serbs "do not trust the international community" or "Kosovo's provisional institutions." Other observers blamed "radical Serbian nationalists" for the boycott, which only "weakened their own position" by reducing Serb influence in the new government. Austria's centrist Die Presse labeled the boycott a "self-inflicted shot in the foot on the part of the Serbs."
A 'clear mandate' or a 'farce'-- Observers applauded the "successful organization" of the "free, democratic elections." Albania's rightist 55Pesedhjetepese opined that the election "made a contribution to the civilization of the whole Albanian nation." Denmark's center-left Politiken added that the vote was "first and foremost a victory" for Kosovo itself. Critics instead focused on the "catastrophically bad political, economic and security situation." Macedonia's pro-government Utrinski Vesnik alleged that Kosovo leaders are "waiting for foreigners to solve their problems." Russia's pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya blasted the vote as a "farce pure and simple...with ex-terrorists swept into power."
'Independence must be the final status'-- Several Euro dailies joined Kosovar outlets in calling the election a "sure step towards independence." Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph backed independence, demanding the UN "end Kosovo's anomalous position." The UAE's expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times saw a "growing clamor for total independence" among Albanians who "have shown they don't want to live together" with Serbs. But skeptics worried that neighbors would "try to merge with a future Kosovo state." Prague's centrist MF Dnes said an independent Kosovo would become "Europe's severe headache," raising alarm about the "establishment of an unstable 'Greater Albania.'"
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 38 reports from 18 political entitites over 25 - 27 October 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
KOSOVO: "Why Joint Governance?"
Assistant editor-in-chief Halil Matoshi opined in independent tabloid Lajm Ekskluzive (10/27): “The design of the October 23 elections and its results have led to the option of joint governance as one of the most painless forms of governance, one that does not create divisions within the political factor in Kosovo. And of course, everybody is happy. But one should not expect good and effective governance from the joint governance. This was already seen in the previous mandate--instead of accelerating development processes and the building of sustainable institutions, that mandate was mainly spent to buy time. It’s true that Kosovo’s electorate seeks unity around essential issues because it is tired of many years of divisions.... The electorate participated in the designing of the joint governance because it is afraid of new challenges. And these wise leaders (of Kosovo) know how to respect that. The electorate wants to buy time from the authorities, to buy a break from big political upheavals and wants the big leaders to be together.”
"A Question And The Political Sincerity"
Publisher Blerim Shala wrote in independent, mass-circulation Zeri (10/27): "Albanian politicians should ask themselves one question only: Are our political parties able to stay divided by the classical scheme of power (someone to be in the position and someone in the opposition) and at the same time be united about the issue of Kosovo status? To put it simply, is it possible to create a Kosovo Government and a strong opposition in the Parliament so when the time comes to deal with Kosovo status (and we have to bear in mind that this is a period of months not years) the authorities and the opposition come united to create a Kosovo Delegation that would be responsible for the status--the main issue of Kosovo? If our politicians are really sincere, they know very well the answer to this question. If they are not sincere, they would tell us that that is possible."
"Don’t Waste Kosovo’s Time"
The editorial of pro-LDK, mass-circulation Bota Sot read (10/27): "October 23, 2004, elections are over now. Kosovo’s political class and Kosovo voters demonstrated absolute obedience for the election schemes made by internationals and the International Community. Now it is on the internationals in Kosovo and on the International Community to save Kosovo time, not to waste Kosovo’s time. Kosovo’s central state institutions should be created immediately and in full accordance with all the promises that have been given in these post-liberation years and repeated systematically in the last five months.... The internationals should keep their word now and confirm the independent and sovereign state of Kosovo for the sake of Kosovo progress and the progress in the Illyrian Peninsula and wider. The International Community and the international institutions in Kosovo will be held fully responsible if they think that Kosovo will again endure someone stealing, robbing are misusing its time."
"The Punishment Of Serbs"
Independent Kosova Sot said (10/27): "There is no important international center that did not condemn the non-participation of Kosovo Serbs in the elections of last Saturday. The criticism was particularly directed at Belgrade and the Serbian Church who exerted their influence in order to disallow the Serb minority to become part of an important process.... Realizing what they have lost and realizing the negative consequences of Belgrade’s influence, the politicians of this minority have been shifting their previous positions. This is the best moment for them to ignore, once and forever, the fruitless instructions coming from Belgrade authorities. The continuing international pressure has disappointed many Serbs and the condemnation of Saturday’s boycott has disappointed the Serbs a lot.... Amid these many accusations it is the Albanians (the majority community) that have gained two big political favors. First, they were not blamed at all for the non-participation of the Serbs in the elections. And secondly, the success of the second parliamentary elections has finally made March become part of the past and not as influential as it has been so far in the most negative context. March is definitely not a pretext for the Serb boycott. Now it is a new period when the key minority still has the opportunity and space to integrate in Kosovo institutions. There is no other way."
"Voter Is God"
Editor-in-chief Agron Bajrami opined in independent, top-circulation Koha Ditore (10/26): "The elections are finished and the results are known already. No one has achieved what one has hoped or thought to achieve. The verdict of voters is just like the situation we have had in the last five years--complicated.... If voters, organizers of the elections and law enforcing bodies have passed the test on Saturday, there will be another test for those who got the votes of the people. The speed with which they are going to reach an agreement for the new government is essential for getting a positive note. If the leaders fail--as they did three years ago when they couldn’t reach an agreement for 4 months and it took an international negotiation to impose joint governance--then Kosovo will again enter a circle of stagnation and falling. And this is not what Kosovo needs after the March catastrophe. Elections, as these that we had--peaceful, democratic, incident-free--has been the best thing that could happen in Kosovo. In order to continue with progress we need now a continuity of successes without the international help and pressure. Every day of delay now is a month of delay in opening the issue of the status. In fact, to those who cannot reach an agreement for implementing the will of the people it is hard to entrust the representation of that will at the status negotiating table. Not everything will be the same as before.... To the three ‘big ones’ of Kosovo politics now has been added another one--the fourth one. And this one differs, not only by its critical voice.... With little luck, Kosovo will have a position and an opposition in the next four years and an Assembly that is more interesting to watch. And those who will take power should think better whom to appoint for minister, adviser and deputy. With little luck, the verdict that looks complicated today, will be remembered in the future as the day when things in Kosovo started to move...because that was how it was written...by the voter.”
"What Would Be The Future Kosovo Government Like?"
Independent, mass-circulation Zeri stated (10/26): "The circumstances are not the same as they were in 2001 or 2002, because now it is known that Kosovo status will be addressed in short term which, as the biggest challenge for Kosovo, requires a broadest possible consensus among political parties. At the same time, the experience of the joint governance of the last three years has not been as fruitful as expected, and many in LDK, PDK and AAK have remained greatly dissatisfied with the quality of this coalition. Therefore, in the pre-election period often there have been statements that it would be better if in Kosovo too was created the model of the position and a strong opposition. In order to overcome this hesitation, it seems that the leaders and political parties themselves have to clarify whether they want a coalition of power for governance or they want a coalition for power and for the status of Kosovo. The first option, coalition for governance, creates room for seeking an absolute majority of 61 (and more) mandates, which would be legally and politically enough. The second option requires a government that has the support of at least 80 deputies (two thirds), which would create a parliamentary reconcilability for the most delicate phase of the resolution of Kosovo status."
"Elections Reconfirm Central State Institutions Of Kosovo"
Pro-LDK, mass-circulation Bota Sot editorialized (10/26): "In all their substance and results, the elections of October 23, 2004, have shown that the Kosovo electorate cast its vote to reconfirm the central state institutions of Kosovo, this time with a full mandate of four years.... The substance of the vote of Kosovo electorate reflects all promises that the political class of Kosovo (its different parties) gave during the elections campaign. Of course, the importance of the October 23, 2004 vote is that it authorized official recognition of Kosovo’s independence as soon as possible. Kosovo’s sovereign (the people) gave most trust to the President of the state of Kosovo, Mr. Ibrahim Rugova and to the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), who have proven themselves for fifteen years with their commitment to Kosovo’s independence and brotherly pluralism."
Publisher Blerim Shala wrote in independent, mass-circulation Zeri (10/26): "Only two days after the October 23 elections, the urgency has been related, first of all, to the resolution of Kosovo status, not only by the Albanian politicians but also by western diplomats and Serb politicians. The boycott of the elections by the Kosovar Serbs could be the final blow to the idea of the (priority) Standards before Status.... This does not mean that Kosovo Government and UNMIK should not attempt to implement priority standards in the months to come. What it means is that next June should be measured (before all) this very attempt for fulfilling these standards and not the results that have been achieved in the meantime. The urgency is also mentioned regarding the process for reaching an agreement between the main Kosovo parties, now that the results of the Saturday elections are known. According to the Constitutional Framework, The Assembly of Kosovo should be constituted no later than thirty days after the publication of official results. This deadline should be the time limit for reaching an agreement. Therefore, it would not be a mistake if UNMIK sets a deadline for local leaders to test their own ability for creating a coalition. After this deadline, the chief administrator of Kosovo, with the support of western offices could play the role of the mediator."
"What After The Elections--A Dilemma For Kosovars And Internationals"
Augustin Palokaj wrote in leading independent, top-circulation Koha Ditore (10/25): “The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) proved once again to be the biggest party and the most organized one throughout Kosovo. This party also proved that through its branches and sub-branches it has developed the most appropriate methods for communication in a patriarchal environment such as Kosovo.... With its patriarchal behavior the LDK has shown that it could win the majority of votes in Kosovo and this party needs to change nothing if its objective is to only win votes.... The main lesson that the international community should learn is that it cannot count on Belgrade as a constructive factor for reaching success in Kosovo.... But if it still considers Belgrade as a partner regarding Kosovo, the international community would be rewarding Belgrade for its destructive role in the election boycott and thus give a hard blow to the forces in Belgrade that are considered as moderate. The international community is facing a new reality of the self-isolation of the Serbs in Kosovo (under direction from Belgrade) which is the last warning that everything is going towards the territorial partition of Kosovo.... Although it has reasons to be concerned over the situation of the Serb minority, the international community should not punish the majority and postpone the issue of the status because of the Serbs. The Serb boycott, almost total, of Saturday’s elections in Kosovo, should be received as bad news and as a failure of Kosovo Albanians as well--both the political leaders and Kosovar society itself. Although the whole boycott was directed by Belgrade, the Kosovars should face the fact that the Serbs are unified in boycotting Kosovo institutions. And without the Serbs, it will be difficult to find a speedy solution for Kosovo’s final status.... If Kosovo Serbs really want security, return [to former homes], reconstruction of their buildings in Kosovo, and a free and peaceful life in Kosovo, the only way for them is to cooperate with the Albanian majority and to participate in Kosovo’s political life.”
"Three Sets Of Results In October 23 Elections"
Independent, mass-circulation Zeri commented (10/25): "Less and less voters, more and more problems, always closer to the final status.... There could be many motives that caused a record number of abstainers. However, common to all of them is the dissatisfaction with the current situation in Kosovo and disbelief that the Kosovar democratic parliamentary-ism is a mechanism for resolving the many problems Kosovo faces. Common for Albanians and Serbs that did not vote on October 23 is probably the belief that the final status of Kosovo is a precondition for making big changes in Kosovo. Kosovo Serbs did not abstain, they boycotted the elections, thus making it known that they are supporters of a regime and political option...that enjoys decreasing support in Serbia itself.... Kostunica’s policy towards Kosovo is known. Those ten Serb deputies that could get hold of the reserved mandates in the Assembly of Kosovo will be powerless to represent the interests of Kosovo Serbs.... So, UNMIK and Albanian leaders should find the answer to a very unpleasant question: How to improve the situation of Serbs without the help of the Serb politicians of Kosovo? Without finding an answer to this question, it would be too difficult to make progress in the implementation of priority standards.... In the meantime, Kosovar leaders and UNMIK authorities should find the answer to another capital question: How to improve the situation in Kosovo in the period before the resolution of the status issue.... First of all, the high percentage of abstainers among the Albanians proves that the amount of their discontent has reached the level where one does not believe that voting could change the situation.... Secondly, even those who voted on Saturday are increasingly frustrated, and the only motives that drove them to vote were the perspective for a speedy resolution of the status and the perception of voting as an obligation, not as a right.... So it is clear that the elections of October 23 have produced three sets of results. The first ones are in relation with the distribution of 120 seats in Kosovo Assembly. The second results are about sharing the burden of economic and political developments between UNMIK and local authorities. The third results relate to the positioning of Kosovo Serbs.”
Pro-LDK, mass-circulation Bota Sot said (10/25): “National elections of Kosovo on October 23, 2004, were excellent.... The elections have shown that an independent Kosovo, with its democratic people and with its political class that is committed to this people--has the talent, opportunity and full energy to build a western democracy of the highest qualities.... These elections open a new epoch for Kosovo, the region, the continent and wider, an epoch of the independent, democratic, sovereign and Western state of Kosovo.”
"The Week Of Waiting"
Independent Kosova Sot editorialized (10/25): “We will have to wait for a week for the publication of official election results and to see what is going to be the political configuration of the new Parliament of Kosovo.... From the experience of previous elections, one can expect a delay but there will be an added international pressure that will urge for the speedier creation of a coalition government.... Possibilities are different, and there are already two options clearly defined by analytical circles. The first option says that the government should be broadly based because in the next year it is expected the opening of the chapter of the final status of Kosovo. From the political aspect and from the aspect of unity, this idea does not sound bad, but having in mind the bitter experience of the current governing coalition such a government would not be useful. The other option is about creating a strong opposition which, based on the current distribution of votes, could be the Democratic Party. Although four years without power could seem too long to PDK as a possible opposition, this period would be enough to play a constructive and vigilant role of the opposition party that could seize power if the political rival governs badly. This second option seems even more useful for the country because we would have a real democracy and greater transparency.”
"About The Rain, Fog And Votes"
Blerim Shala wrote in independent, mass-circulation Zeri (10/25): “We feared rain and got fog. The weather in Kosovo is long ago a substantial part of political developments.... As it turned to be this time again, we cannot forecast what the weather is going to be like 2-3 days ahead, not to speak of predicting whether there are going to be new disturbances, such as those of March. So to speak, we were lucky again. It was a beautiful sunny day. Just as in the three previous elections, from the security aspect it was a very calm day. Everything was as it should be--despite the results.... However, compared to 2-3 years ago, the quality of results was better.... If we all, as Kosovars, are winners because we had good elections again, then there are plenty of losers as well. Before all, the turnout was not to be proud of at all. It is decreasing continuously.”
BRITAIN: "Kosovo's Future"
An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph read (10/25): "Independence must be the final status of the province. Only then will it be relieved of the stifling weight of international bureaucracy and begin to attract the foreign investment it desperately needs. Guarantees for the Serbian and other minorities will, of course, have to be secured. But negotiations on final status must be driven by a determination to end Kosovo's anomalous position as soon as possible. Further foot-dragging will only heighten ethnic tension."
FRANCE: "Ethnic Reconciliation In Trouble"
Isabelle Lasserre wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/25): “Those few people who still had doubts will be convinced: the notion of multi-ethnicity which the international community promised to establish in Kosovo thanks to NATO and its soldiers, to the billions of dollars invested in the economy and to the speeches on national reconciliation, is nothing but an illusion.”
GERMANY: "A Litmus Test"
Hartmut Jennerjahn commented on national radio station DeutschlandRadio of Berlin (10/26): "The clarification of the future status of the province will become the litmus test for all sides involved: for the international community, the leadership of the Kosovo-Albanians, and for Serbia that continues to reclaim sovereignty over the region.... The Serbian and the Albanian positions are still incompatible.... It resembles the squaring of the circle to find a solution to the Kosovo problem. If the province is independent, the neighbors with a strong Albanian minority, mainly Macedonia, are afraid that they will try to merge with a future Kosovo state. Serbia must resist such a solution anyway, since historically based national myths are linked to this province. A return to Serbia, in turn, would meet with strong resistance from the Kosovo-Albanians. The international community, and the EU in particular, must help find a way out of the dilemma to pacify the region. As problematic as a new provisional state according to the pattern of the UN administration may be, but in the end, only a interim solution can help step by step achieve a lasting stabilization of the situation."
"Business As Usual"
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine editorialized (10/25): "Apparently, the Albanian majority has reached the same results as in the first elections three years ago. If you want, you can interpret this as a sign of political stability. A less optimistic view is the assumption that clans and not issues decide the elections. There would have been enough reasons for a drastic change of powers. Albanians are said to be very disappointed with their current leaders…. The almost total absence of Serbs is also a blow to UN administrator Jessen-Petersen, who has called upon them to cast their votes. But since the March riots, minorities do not trust Albanians or international representatives."
Stefanie Bolzen noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/25): "The elections--five years after the end of the war--can be seen as a symbol for stagnation. The turnout was less than 50 percent, which is a sign of resignation in a young democracy and does not reflect confidence in the rule of law.... But this day might still become a turning point, because everybody should know understand that a change of policy is necessary; the current policy of 'Standards before Status' is no longer sufficient.... The election is a bitter turning point for all those who believed in the reconstruction of a multiethnic Kosovo--most people in Kosovo do not believe in it.... One thing is clear: Nothing can remain as it is."
Leftist Die Tageszeitung opined (10/25): "Radical Serbian nationalists should be blamed for the election boycott among Kosovo Serbs.... It can only be hoped that moderate forces will assert themselves on the Serb side after all."
ITALY: "Rugova Only Partly Wins--The UN’s Failure"
Giuseppe Castagnoli stated in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (10/25): “Elections in Kosovo went as expected: the Albanians were the only ones to vote, while the Serbian minority deserted the voting stations. An historical occasion has been missed and hopes to recreate a truly multi-ethnic society in the tormented region have perhaps vanished forever. Saturday’s vote is evidence of the UN’s failure.... The results of these elections will push Albanian leaders to seek the region’s independence, which could be part one of a possible Greater Albania.”
"Kosovo, Rugova Proclaims Himself Victor"
Centrist, influential La Stampa held (10/25): "The elections brought no changes in Kosovo: President Ibrahim Rugova’s party was the most widely voted and the clash between Serbs and Albanians is just as tough as ever.... The Serbian boycott of the elections casts dark clouds over negotiations that the international community intends to make way for next year in order to define the province’s status following six years of UN protection.”
RUSSIA: "The Farce"
Vyacheslav Tetekin remarked in nationalist pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (10/26): "That was a farce pure and simple, another step to Kosovo's separation from Serbia. In fact, that was the idea behind NATO's strategic plan for Yugoslavia in the late 1990s. After bombs, rockets, and bloody ethnic cleansing, we are witnessing the third stage, with war crimes being legalized through ballots. In the past, it was for the Vatican to remit sins. Now the election commission in Washington, one for all, does that. Kosovo's Serbs boycotted the vote altogether. Which was a bad slap in the face of Serbia, as its top leadership, acting under pressure from its sponsors in the West, urged the Serbs to take part in the elections.... The Ibragim Rugova party won. Rugova, who is considered a moderate, may be that only in how he acts, not in what he is after. Hashim Tachi and Ramush Hardinai came in second and third respectively. They are former field commanders from the West-backed terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army and are directly responsible for the death of thousands of people, both non-Albanians and Albanians.... The whole thing looks like the triumph of democracy Western style, with ex-terrorists swept into power and the Kosovo Serbs driven into ghettos. The next move will be for the NATO-Albanian parliament to demand full independence for Kosovo, as the Balkans continues to be re-carved at fraternal Serbia's expense."
ALBANIA: "A Lesson"
Fatos Balliu noted in small circulation, independent, rightist, very sensational 55Pesedhjetepese (10/25): "The free, democratic elections in Kosovo are in deep, fierce contrast with the irresponsibility of the Central [Election] Commission in Tirana and the secret efforts of Nano to rig the elections and keep a false majority in power.... With their successful organization of the elections the Kosovars have made a contribution to the civilization of the whole Albanian nation. These elections are a great example for the whole Balkans.... The vote will also contribute to the consolidation of Kosovo's institutions and praises the cooperation among Kosovo's political forces on the organization of the election. They saw the elections in Kosova as a sure step towards independence. They did not think about their seats in parliament or how to rip each other off. They remained calm and quiet, rejecting selfishness, coping with thousands of negative factors, and organized free, fair, and democratic elections in which there were no incidents.... These elections also act as an apology by Kosovo 's political class to the international community for what happened in spring this year. Kosova displayed a high level of emancipation and showed the world that the Albanians produce stability. They are not the root of the conflict or any extraordinary event in Kosova.... Kostunica's primitive declarations prove he is unable to understand the time, the century, and the context of the world's political future.... The stance of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the election as unacceptable and incompatible with the church's mission."
"Elections Produced Deputies Of Low Level"
Sadri Ramabaja asserted in top-circulation, independent center-left Shekulli (10/25): "There is historic significance in the 23 October election for Kosovo.... However, the low political, ethical, moral, and professional level of the new deputies causes concerns.... This time the intellectual and political level of these candidates does not represent the real level of our nation's intellectuals...their lack of moral, ethical, and professional qualities will compromise Kosovo 's advance toward independence."
AUSTRIA: "Shooting Themselves In The Foot"
Wieland Schneider remarked in centrist Die Presse (10/25): "At first sight, one cannot blame the Serbian ethnic group in Kosovo for following the appeal of the government in Belgrade to steer clear of the polls. Their situation in the midst of a hostile Albanian environment is catastrophic. Neither the international troops nor the police in Kosovo are capable or willing to protect minorities in danger. A closer look, however, reveals that boycotting the elections has been a self-inflicted shot in the foot on the part of the Serbs in Kosovo. By isolating themselves from the democratic process they have reduced their influence--and just as negotiations on the province's future status are in the crucial opening phase. The Kosovo Serbs ought to ask themselves whether, as on so many occasions in the past, they have again made themselves an instrument of the right-wing forces in Belgrade--to their own disadvantage."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Independent Kosovo"
Centrist MF Dnes declared (10/26): "Kosovo 's independence is set to happen.... Last weekend's elections in this part of the Balkans, boycotted by almost the entire Serb minority...unfortunately confirmed, however, that a country was being born which could become Europe's severe headache.... The foundations of a future independent Kosovo are unacceptable to Europe. With international organizations watching, the area is being ethnically cleansed of the Serb minority. In the last few years, not machine guns and grenades but money has been used to achieve this.... An independent Kosovo could have a negative impact on Macedonia's Albanian minority and in the future lead to the establishment of an unstable 'Greater Albania.' Europe cannot accept a country whose state structures are (although only partially) infiltrated and influenced by criminals and mafia bosses."
DENMARK: "Kosovo's Election: A Defeat For The Moderate Serbs"
Center-left Politiken opined (10/26): "There is every reason to rejoice that the election in Kosovo passed off peacefully.... But...it was first and foremost a victory for the population.... The Kosovo Albanians showed themselves to be politically mature, also during a balanced and peaceful election campaign. And there have been no serious ethnic clashes in the past few months.... But there is a great deal to be worried about after the election. The Kosovo Albanians...gave most of their votes to their old ruling parties who have shown themselves to be less than able to solve the major economic and social problems. They have been best at making propaganda for independence and are promising everyone that this will become a reality next year. But one of the preconditions...is guaranteeing that Kosovo will be a multiethnic society. It was not a multiethnic election, because only very few Serbs voted--under 1 percent. This is a defeat for UNMIK.... It is also a defeat for Kosovo 's and Serbia's moderate Serbs that only a few hundred heeded their call to vote.... It is of course the democratic right of the Serbs to refrain from voting, but it is hugely undemocratic that many of them did so under the threat of being fired or of being ejected from the Serbian community if they voted.... Milosevic's socialists have returned to leading posts in Serb enclaves and it is Prime Minister Kostunica who has given them these posts as thanks for the Socialist Party's support for his government in Belgrade. This is an approach that indicates that he does not give a damn about the Serbs in Kosovo.... But the election was a major setback for the endeavors to create a multiethnic Kosovo. This time the setback did not take the form of Albanian attacks on Serbian enclaves. This time the it was the Serbs who chose to turn their backs on Kosovo 's institutions. Both are major stumbling blocks on the road to reconciliation."
MACEDONIA, FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF: "Something New In Kosovo"
Dimitar Culev observed in pro-government Utrinski Vesnik (10/25): "Everything that happened during the general election in Kosovo on Saturday...the voter turnout, the winners, and the boycott by the Serbs, was predictable. However, the assessments that the protectorate had passed the test, shown a true democratic conscience, and proved that the road toward complete independence had more or less been paved may prove to be premature. By choosing the old-new political elite...Kosovars have actually not acquired a quality new leadership that is expected to do more for the catastrophically bad political, economic, and security situation.... The Serbs also expressed their frustration with the same 'faces.' That is why they refused to provide new legitimacy to the people who were the Kosovo leaders who failed to prevent the incidents in March, when for 48 hours an uncontrolled mob of 50,000 destroyed Serbian property and killed Serbs. The assessment that it is positive that most of the citizens once again supported the moderate Rugova is proper.... However, that Rugova would win was clear.... Nevertheless, Rugova has done little as president to meet the condition that the international community set as an assignment.... The Kosovo president did not present himself as a leader who would assume responsibility for the 80,000 Serbs living in the province.... We are bound to conclude that the Kosovo politicians are acting relatively complacently, waiting for foreigners to solve their problems, and expecting the status of a province, which would be a trophy that they have not deserved.... Belgrade's view on the outcome of the election, if it recognizes it, will be interesting. This will run contrary to the appeals to boycott the election.... Without a place in the negotiations, Belgrade will not be treated as a party seriously interested in the resolution of the issue of Kosovo in any form."
"Once Again About Our Fears"
Ljubomir D. Frckoski wrote in independent Dnevnik (10/25): "It would be useful to confront one of the objects of our collective fears and try to place it under reasonable control.... Kosovo , my dears. What are the options there and how will this reflect on us? More accurately, what is the danger for Macedonia of 'a Greater Kosovo?'.... First, it is clear that the biggest problem could be a upsurge of violence, which the international community has decided to prevent with all the power available (it is not clear whether this will be enough). This means NO to violence.... Second, foreigners have already realized that they can no longer hold the negotiations on the status of Kosovo hostage to the syntagma: standards before status!.... The aim is to absorb and ventilate the Albanians' frustration over the status quo in the negotiations on the status and the risk of violence. Third, the recent violence in Kosovo stressed the need for urgent financial resources to alleviate the joblessness.... These are the pillars of the latest pragmatic policy in Kosovo. The prediction is that the negotiations on the status will be defined in year 2005.... My prediction is that [the status] will be in the form of conditional independence.... The biggest fears for the region are that there could be a spillover of the violence and aggression of paramilitary groups...for the creation of 'a Greater Kosovo'.... This fear is realistic, because the poor quality and durability of the democratic institutions in Kosovo and among the Albanians are absolutely no guarantee against an upsurge of such violence.... The international community is no longer naive. It believes it must set a condition for the province to receive the status of being independent by forbidding...debate and procedures aimed at changing borders and joining Kosovo to any other part of the region.... This would be 'the end' of the golgotha of the disintegration of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia."
NORWAY: "The Unfortunate Election In Kosovo"
Social-democratic Dagsavisen contended (10/26): "The Serbs have weakened their own position and their possibility to have influence by boycotting the election.... The lack of votes [from the Serbs] reprieves these [Serb] representatives of their much needed legitimacy. And even worse: by boycotting the election, the Serbs cancelled out on trying to achieve a functioning democracy in Kosovo. This makes it easier to override the Serb minority at the next crossroad.... Next year there are plans to start negotiating Kosovo’s final, future status. Now it is not certain anymore that these talks can even start. The Albanians’ wish for independence cannot be fulfilled before the rights of the minorities are properly secured. Only one thing is for sure in Kosovo: The UN as well as NATO will have to stay there indefinitely.”
SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO: "The Day After"
Belgrade-based pro-government Politika commented (10/26): "Serbs that remains in Kosovo have no freedom of movement, have no jobs.... Generally, they have no conditions for a normal life. Their so-called ‘boycott' is in fact a protest against their living conditions.... We should remember that March 17 happened only seven months ago! ‘The Day After’ for Serbs has already happened.... The majority of Serbs decided not to vote because they do not trust the international community and particularly Kosovo’s provisional institutions. One can say that the international community is largely responsible for the bad position of the Serbian community in Kosovo and for their extremely low turnout in the elections.... It is wrongful to think that the problem is now in the hands of Serbs. The main problems are the fear for life, no freedom of movement and no safe return of displaced Serbs to Kosovo. Serbs cannot resolve these problems but only the international community and Kosovo’s provisional institutions.”
"The Triumph Of Populism"
'Torov' (psuedonym) said in Belgrade-based pro-government Politika (10/26): "The boycott was absolutely successful--it remains to be seen what price the Serbs will have to pay. Not only because they will not be represented in Kosovo's institutions, but because by boycotting the elections, they have lost the capital that Tadic's and Draskovic's diplomatic actions obtained after the Albanian extremists' vandalism on March 17. From now on things will become even more difficult. The boycott will not have a positive reaction in the international community. The boycott will increase the suspicion that Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian Government, just like the Albanians, do not really care to create an environment in which Kosovo's future could be discussed."
Independent, liberal Danas maintained (10/25): "The Serbian boycott of the elections in Kosovo will presumably hurt the Serbs themselves and create resentment among the international community.... While the Serbian dissatisfaction with the UN adminsitration in the province is understandable...one has to remember the UN is only in Kosovo because beforehand the ethnic Albanians were subjected to terror."
SLOVAKIA: "Ethnically Cleansed Elections"
Centrist Pravda maintained (10/25): "There were three irreconcilable positions.... The main message of the polls...was that the Albanians want an independent Kosovo.... The message of the Serbs' boycott...is that they want a Serbian Kosovo.... And the world wants a multiethnic Kosovo.... This means that these ethnically cleansed elections have solved nothing."
SPAIN: "The Future Of Kosovo"
Conservative ABC observed (10/25): "The elections held in Kosovo have confirmed that the idea of a multiethnic society is still an utopia. Albanians and Serbs have shown that they don't want to live together, and everything indicates that things will have to change a lot in the Balkans to it to be possible.... If Serbians and the Kosovar Albanians don't do their bit to demonstrate that there is hope, the only solution will be the territorial and political division of the two communities.... The EU should help both parts to find a formula that, at minimum, is acceptable for the majority of both communities."
SWITZERLAND: "No Closer"
Conservative Zurich-based German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung declared (10/25): "Despite the fact that the elections were peaceful, Kosovo has not come closer to an independent future. There's still too much division over who will rule the province...and under these conditions it seems unrealistic that discussions about Kosovo's independence can begin in earnest in nine months time."
UAE: "Let Kosovo Move On"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times editorialized (10/25): "Saturday's election in Kosovo has been landmark in every sense of the term. The state’s political parties and the people had come to regard the election as a virtual referendum on the future of the Balkan state. And now estimates suggest that President Ibrahim Rugova, who pushed for the complete independence of the state in his poll campaign, has got a majority. The people’s clear mandate for Rugova’s party demonstrates the Kosovars’ keenness to move on. Change is what they want: a change of status quo and a change for the better.... The UN and Kfor have largely been successful in keeping peace in Kosovo. However, things have not moved on other fronts. The uncertain status of the state--still regarded by Serbia as its own--has meant that the Kosovars cannot run and decide their own affairs.... Now that the Kosovars do not have to suffer under the Serbian rule, they still cannot take steps to improve their lot. The provisional government of President Rugova is keen on inviting foreign investment to boost employment and economic growth in the country. But the uncertain status of Kosovo has kept international investors away. Hence, the growing clamour for total independence and pressure on the UN to accept Kosovo’s status as a sovereign state.... The UN, U.S. and NATO, which have played a key role in bringing peace to the Balkan state, have to initiate steps to recognise Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state. In a few months from now, the UN is to review Kosovo’s progress towards democratic governance before initiating negotiations about the state’s future. The international body’s concern for democratic foundations is understandable. But that’s no reason to keep Kosovo in a limbo. The UN insistence on democratic standards before status is rather unrealistic in a land that has been ravaged by decades of occupation and whose people have yet to recover from appalling persecution at the hands of Serb fascists. Kosovo is the last bit of the Balkan jigsaw. There cannot be peace and stability in this part of Europe unless Kosovo gets the world attention and its people are allowed to run their country."
Isaac Bigio wrote in pro-government tabloid Diario VEA (10/27): "The elections to the assembly in Kosovo will give a large majority to the pro-independence parties of the majority ethnic groups (Albanians: 90% of the population), while most of the Serbian minority (10% of the inhabitants) boycott by protesting at the attacks against their community and rejecting any kind of separation movement. If Kosovo fully exercised its democratic right to self-determination, this could lay the foundations for the reconstitution of a Greater Albania that included Kosovo, Albania and the Albanian areas of Macedonia."
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