Kosovo – what if the election fails?

Detaching membership – for both Serbia and Kosovo – from finding an immediate solution to the Kosovo issue might help everyone move forward with a greater sense of security and an openness to cooperation.

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Conflict Background


By Gerard M. Gallucci

It is beginning to look more and more that the November 3 election may fail to resolve the issue of Kosovo.  Radical nationalists on both sides want it to fail and have been doing what they can to keep turnout low.  The Kosovo Albanian majority government in Pristina has been throwing up whatever obstacles the EU and US allow.  “Kosova” symbols on ballots, efforts to keep Serbian officials from visiting Kosovo to encourage voting (including threat of arrest), political detentions of Kosovo Serb candidates and rejecting Serb IDPs on voting lists.  In the north, those opposing participation in the election are holding rallies, tearing down election posters and delivering messages in the traditional manner by throwing grenades.  Meanwhile, some in the EU seem still intent on demanding Belgrade’s complete surrender now before allowing Serbia to move forward to membership.  Belgrade seems the only player seriously working to make the elections a success.  Serbian officials have repeatedly called on Kosovo Serbs to vote and warned of the consequences of a boycott, especially in the north where it could lead to local governments in the hands of supporters of the Pristina regime.

Everyone seems to agree that the likely voter turnout in the north may not exceed 15-20%.  Anything approaching 30% would be considered a victory.  Actually, any turnout sufficient to elect northern Kosovo Serbs at least minimally acceptable to their community would be a success.  This would at least allow room for further evolution along the lines of a status-neutral approach to decentralization of local government with continued links between Kosovo Serbs and Serbia.  In North Mitrovica that could mean the election, for example, of Oliver Ivanovic as mayor.  Oliver started out as a “bridge-watcher” but lost support from hardliners in his community when he accepted compromise with – and participation in – the administrations in Pristina and Belgrade.  But perhaps it would not be held against him in all quarters of the Serb community that he learned English and is an astute politician ready to play the game, in the interests of that community, within the existing rules.  Perhaps because his winning office would disappoint nationalists on both sides, he and his family have been the target of physical attack.

The northern Kosovo Serbs could use the November 3 opportunity to elect leaders recognized by the internationals, Pristina and Belgrade.  This would be a good way to exit the “parallel” universe they have been trapped in since 1999.  The Serb communities in the north could continue as before with their own local institutions and their own local leaders but now with a “legal” – and neutral – status usefully nestled in both Serbia and Kosovo.  Makes sense to me.  But the decision is for the northerners themselves.

So what if the vote is too low to be considered legitimate or ends up electing those not representative of the Serb majority in the northern four municipalities?  Pristina would demand imposition of those “elected” nevertheless.  Belgrade would face the choice of either accepting that outcome or breaking the deal brokered by Brussels.  That means choosing between being perceived as handing over the northern Kosovo Serbs to the Albanians or losing the opportunity to advance into the EU any time soon.  Either outcome could lead to hardening of lines and increased chances of conflict.  Belgrade breaking its deal with Pristina would please the nationalists on both sides as it would lead to further resistance by the Serbs and demands by Pristina to settle the matter through use of force.  Belgrade acceptance of an election outcome seen as illegitimate by a majority in the north would do the same but raise tensions even more by leading the northerners to consider extreme measures (fight or flight?).  The UN, NATO and EU would be put back into the hot seat in either case.

The northern Kosovo Serbs may see failure of the election as a final way to make it clear they want no part in an “independent” Kosovo.  Faced by the choice between violence and/or possible ethnic flight, would it then be time for the international community to reconsider the idea of partition?  Perhaps the Germans would loosen their death-grip on Serbian EU membership?  Detaching membership – for both Serbia and Kosovo – from finding an immediate solution to the Kosovo issue might help everyone move forward with a greater sense of security and an openness to cooperation.

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He will serve as Diplomat-in-Residence at Drake University for the 2013-14 school year.

To read TransConflict’s policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in responding to this article, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.

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77 Responses

  1. Trollhunter

    One thing more to watch is Pristina’s effort to cut Serb IDPs from voting lists and to add thousands of Albanians to the lists for the north. It has long been the policy of the Kosovo Albanian leadership to change the ethnic composition of the north by injecting “returnees” who never lived there and displacing Serbs forced from homes in the south. Any non-Serb “elected” leader in the north would be a sign of a tainted process.

  2. Fadil

    Elections fail and partition is considered!! This is very strange. What would be the motivation for northern Serbs to vote if “partition is considered”?? No partition at all. The Serbs may choose to be part of Kosovo institutions or isolate themselves and finally disappear from Kosovo as a result of their fault.

  3. peter

    If this experiment fails then i think partition may be on the table.The north willgo to serbia.The albanian populated areas of the presevo valley to Kosovo.The Kosovars will not be willing to give up the energy projets in the North ie mines,and hydro electic dams,then maybe a joint kosovo-serbian cooperation be created to benefits both countries.

  4. PEN

    ‘And finally disappear from Kosovo.’ Wishful thinking from the Albanian militant ‘fadil.’ So far as Presevo is concerned peter, forget it. There is a sizeable Albanian population in that region. So what. There is also a sizeable Serb population too. Southern Serbia remains what it is. Southern Serbia. And Albanian run Kosmet remains what it is. A corrupt tribal kleptocracy governed by a Western sponsored mafia.

    1. Fadil

      PEN, you, as a people, are simply disappearing.What kind of “wishful” thinking when it happens already. The EMPTY Serbia would need to be filled somehow. Just try to manage territory in Serbia and forget about northern Kosovo because EVERY body calls it northern KOSOVO and NOT, for example, southern Serbia. As for criminality just see the latest reports from international organizations. Of course, Serbia is the CHAMPION so little PEN, who cares at all about your childish claims against Kosovo and :western sponsored mafia”.

      1. PEN

        What a blind fool you are poor fadil. You live in squalor, your so-called leaders are clan bandits with blood on their hands (literally) and you have the temerity to criticise others around you. I read from the whistleblower Snowden that your paymasters have a major spying operation going on in Pristina. Mind you that’s no surprise. They coveted the province all along for their own malign reasons. You and your people are peripheral. They use you like a dog. And when they’re done with you, they’ll throw you to the dogs.

        1. Fadil

          PEN, you give to me always the possibility to show to the world what kind of criminal state you are trying to protect and your immense effort to weaken Kosovo position. As I said in my previous comment, Serbia is the CHAMPION in crime and corruption, by very strong evidence.

          Maybe Americans can leave Kosovo. Of course, Kosovars will protect themselves and will not allow in any circumstance to be surprised.

          Anyway, I give to you and others, again, an evidence of Serbian police, who is revealing monstrous activities of Serbain state during the war in Kosovo on 1998-1999. Serbian soldiers and police, like monsters not only killed Albanians, like cannibals, they cooked skulls and made lamps from the skull. Non of them is convicted. This is a real face of the state of Serbia. I hope you will read Serbian witness on these monstrous activities and learn the lesson to stop blaming the others.


  5. Result of November 3 in north Kosovo not surprising. The individuals that trashed the three north Mitrovica polling places late in the day were apparently trying to prevent the election of Ms. Hodzic, the current chief of Pristina’s north Mitrovica office. Turnout from the non-Serb community was probably enough to elect her. But while Pristina is claiming victory and urging action now to take over the north, the EU, US and NATO should refrain from use of force. There must still be found a political approach to this eminently political issue of which state the northerners wish to be part.

  6. Anonymous

    Given your comments Is the DSS assertion– that they were not behind attack and that pro-Belgrade forces wanting a re-run were–credible? Partition and incorporation into serbia only just solution for North Kosovo. Not best for all serbs in Kosovo but best for northerners. Belgrade knew better and should never have agreed to this farce.

  7. Anonymous

    Given your comment in line 2 is the DSS assertion that trashing of polling places by pro-Belgrade forces credible? Belgrade should have know better than to sign up to this fiasco. Although it may not be right answer for all Serbs in Kosovo Northerners appear to want partition and incorporation into serbia. really only just solution.

    1. I don’t really know who was behind the trashing of the polling places. Various actors might have motive: Northern Serbs who simply refuse any deal that might leave them in Albanian-controlled Kosovo, Belgrade not wanting to be put into trap of accepting a non-Serb mayor of North Mitrovica, Pristina forces wanting to provoke a crisis that might justify NATO/EULEX intervention and a “takeover,” criminals preferring to live outside all rule of law, crazy drunks from anywhere. But whoever, it’s clear that the majority of northern Serbs did not vote and apparently reject the Belgrade-Pristina agreement. So, the situation seems to require a further evolution on the political side, an accommodation or adjustment that goes beyond what has been offered to this community so far. Or perhaps just more frozen conflict with all the “contradictions” tightening just that much more?

      1. François de France

        I completely agree with Mr Galluci’s last remark. It’s such a pity that mass media is so off track with their coverage of the elections.

      2. Fadil

        Gerard, there is “the first time” for everything. Only few southern Serbs of Kosovo participated in the Kosovo election on 2007 (general elections), more on 2009 (municipal elections) and much, much more on 3rd of November this year. Even today, Serbian prime Dacic would say that “7 million of people can’t be sacrificed for just 20K of people”, meaning that 7 million of people in Serbia cannot sacrifice anymore for 20,000 Serbs in the north of Kosovo. The same will happen with the northern Serbs.

        So, no “frozen conflict” at all. The Serbs in the north do not have to much choices. They can either accommodate themselves within Kosovo institutions or simply disappear gradually from Kosovo and find better place to live with their dreams. The state of Kosovo is willing to give them maximum rights, never seen for such a small group of people in the planet Earth.

  8. Pen

    I don’t need to weaken Kosovo’s position. Kosovo does that quite successfully on its own thank you very much. Whatever happens in north Kosovo, won’t alter the reality of life in Europe’s black hole. Nothing you say or do will change that. Particularly silly stories about lamp shades. Come on fadders you can do better than that!

    1. Fadil

      PEN, I really wish that – Kosovo as a black hole. Kosovo is so good that attracts everything around. So you see Kosovo as immensely strong state. I like that.

      It’s not my intention to change anything. I never pretend that. I like being in opportunity to show to the world what kind of stats was Serbia and why Kosovans are so happy to be free.

      I was not speaking about “lamp shades”. I was speaking about Serbian monsters in military uniform who killed Albanians and made “lamps” from their skulls. It was a former Serbian police revealing to the world such monstrous things, not to speak for killing of babies. And such people ares still free although the witness is filling ashamed to see them free. He feels ashamed but not you PEN because you are the same as those monsters.

      1. PEN

        No, the type of black hole I was referring to was the one that sucks everything in like a parasitic vortex. You remember how Albanian dominated Kosovo sucked in hundreds of millions of dollars in the 70’s and 80’s and for very little gain. And after getting the West to fight your dirty little war for you, you managed the same feat with the EU. Have to give you credit for that mind. After all once a parasite always a parasite, right fadders. By 1998 before NATO intervened on your behalf, your beloved KLA was crushed. That always makes me chuckle, how you and your Croat friends like to brag about winning wars. Only those wars were won for you, and that must be painful. And of course we all know whose side you were on during the real wars, the wars that mattered.
        So far as atrocities are concerned, we’ve all seen the pictures of KLA gunmen holding severed heads as macabre trophies. Apparently chainsaws were the favoured method. nice. Look to your own kind, before posting silly stories about lampshades.

        1. Fadil

          As of sucking the money just ask Slovenians who asked why the money they sent in Belgrade never ended where it was supposed to be – Kosovo. Of course, thieves and thugs in Belgrade stole it. Nevertheless, I know perfectly that you meant something else regarding “black hole” but you changed your mind hiding your functional illiteracy on these things.

          Criminals you are protecting, and showing to the world you don’t differ from them, did not only made lamps from Albanian man and women, but killed in monstrous way Albanian babies. They killed even their own people if any of them would help Albanians, trying to save their lives from monsters in Serbian military uniform.
          Here is the story: http://www.e-novine.com/srbija/srbija-tema/93715-Ubijen-jer-titio-komije-Albance-Muslimane.html

          As for wars I know how such wars have been “won” by Serbian criminals – by massacres of innocent people, old men and women, babies!

          So I told you already, people like you are the worst kind in planet Earth. Hopefully more people in Serbia are now conscious of committed crimes and feel sorry for that. Hopefully, criminals and supporters of criminals, like you, will be lesser in the future.

  9. PEN

    Oh dear fadders, I do believe you’re losing your temper again. I’m surprised you didn’t accuse the Serbs of roasting babies on a spit. And no more with the silly propaganda links. It is childish. The Serbs have always fought their battles alone. Unlike you and your Ustasha friends, kissing anybody’s arse who comes along; Turks, Nazi’s, NATO. True heroes! By the way you’re demonstrating your parasitic tendencies again by crying about money supposedly intended for Kosovo again. This bloodsucking sense of entitlement is typical of your lazy ilk.

    1. Fadil

      PEN, to you, as a supporter of crimes and monsters, I would cite the New York Times, what your criminal predecessors did.

      “On the march through Albania to the sea,the Servians did not only treacherously murder and execute armed Albanians, but their BEAST-LIKE cruelty did not stop at falling upon unarmed and defenseless persons, old men and women, children and infants at the breast.”

      The New York Times, December 31, 1912.


      As you can see, your criminal predecessors in the past and just recently “won” the wars by killing innocent people, old women and men, children and babies.

      I really don’t know how the world was and is such a tolerant for such monsters!!! I don;t understand England and other democratic countries to allow hosting of the supporters of such monsters.

      And imagine I am citing “propaganda” by giving evidence of the Serbs themselves, those Serbs who are feeling guilty for monstrous acts they committed. What one would say about your rubbish accusations without single evidence but just your sick and hatred mind. I really do not understand England, why they don’t keep in their psychiatric clinics such maniacs.

      1. PEN (The fadil slayer)

        Dear me fadders you really have lost the plot haven’t you. By losing your temper perpetually you further demonstrate have far from the truth and deluded you are. Your obsession with events from 1912 and silly propaganda links about lampshades provide ample evidence, if any were needed, that you’re a rather pathetic individual neurotic in the extreme. Do us all a favour, crawl back under your stone and dream about ‘natural Albania’ and other daft ideas you wretched primitives get a hard on over.

      2. PEN

        As I don’t wish to fall foul of Transconflict moderators who appear to have suffered a bout of humour deficit, I shall temper my comments. I have always found that when dealing with primitives like fadil, levity is the best way forward. His type being as blinkered and shallow as they are cannot see beyond their own narrow militant agenda. He is a coward who, if representative of opinion among his own kind, is a very depressing specimen indeed. He is a product of his backward environment, and I suppose should be pitied if nothing else. Tit for tat games are demeaning, and only serve to lower one to his level. Suffice to say I wish all the best to well meaning peoples wherever they be particularly the long suffering and proud Serbs, who need it most.
        PS, don’t bother to respond tedious fadders. You bore me to tears.

        1. Fadil

          PEN, do you really think I respond to you anything?? Your sick mind may think that planet Earth is rotating around you. Who cares on this. You give me the joy to present to the world with whom Albanians dealt with. Criminals and monsters who killed infants at the breast, made lamps of Albanian skulls!!! Of course by very strong evidence.

          Everyone may see your sick mind, not presenting AT ALL A SINGLE evidence but your rubbish writting, showing yourself as severe sick minded person.

          Of course you are not are all in my level as you are truly functional illiterate as you never show any evidence to the public

          Instead I always show to the public my thoughts backed by very strong evidence. I cite The New York times just to show to the public what kind of wars “won” your criminal predecessors, by killing innocent people, children and infants at the breast, since 1912 to 1999. There is a lots of more evidence on this i.e two known Serbs – Dimitrije Tucovic and Kosta Novakovic. British Daily Telegraph also wrote, Russian Leon Trotsky and many others.

          Diitrije Tucovic (Serbian officer) would say: “We have carried out the attempted premeditated murder of an entire nation. We were caught in that criminal act and have been obstructed. Now we have to suffer the punishment…. In the Balkan Wars, Serbia not only doubled its territory, but also its external enemies.”

          Of course, as I said, such evidence is for normal world and not for sick minded people like Serbian extremist nicknamed PEN.

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