Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Kosovo PM Thaci refuses to give up power, uses stacked constitutional court to prevent opposition from forming new institutions

Kosovo held it's last parliamentary election on June 8th, 2014. Observes from OSCE and other organization raved at the time that these election were the most proper election Kosovo ever held. Furthermore, all competing parties accepted the election as having been fair and proper. A coalition lead by the PM's party, PDK, lead in the results, gathering 37 seats out of 120. The combined Albanian opposition parties got 63 seats. The remaining seats are reserved for the minority parties.

Almost two months after the election were held, there has been zero progress in forming of new institutions. The parliament elected it's leader from the opposition ranks, but the PM Thaci's party took that decision to the stacked Constitutional Court. The court duly declared procedural irregularities and invalidated the decision. Two months later, back to the beginning.

Undemocratic Claim

The PM's party has been making an undemocratic and illogical claim that only it has the right to elect the head of parliament and the new PM. They are making a dubious argument that only the pre-election coalition that had the most votes has a claim to lead all major institutions. This is regardless of the fact that they cannot muster the necessary votes in the parliament to elect a dogcatcher with only 37 votes. Their claim is not supported by any common sense reading of the Constitution, and more importantly, it  is not an accepted democratic principle anywhere in the world. In parliamentary democracies, the majority is determined by the numbers in parliament. The problem here is that  Thaci and his ilk have gotten the stacked  Constitutional Court to agree with them, creating an unnecessary institutional crisis in the country.

Stacked Court
Given that composition of the court, it's decision to rule in favor of PM's party didn't surprise many people. The court is composed of men who have explicitly supported Thaci politically before they were elected as well as after. One of the judges, Kadri Kryeziu, was seen attending an election rally with the PM, an explicitly prohibited activity by the constitution. The court has yet to comment on this, despite being required to remove the offending judge. The head of the court, Enver Hasani, is seen as very close to PM's party and was seen meeting leaders of the party in restaurants prior to the decision.
Despite all this, however, some experts were hoping the judges  would not expose themselves to criticism by being so blatant in their decision towards their main benefactor, the PM. They were hoping against hope. With the decision to rule in favor of PM's party, the court has made a mockery of the justice system in Kosovo. In essence, they have said "screw the democratic principle of one man one vote. Only people who have installed us here should hold power". They have created an absurd situation where political parties that actually have the majority in parliament, cannot form new institution.

Power at all costs
PM Thaci has been in power now for the past 7 years, and during this time there was some significant progress in the way the country was governed, including to the economic infrastructure ( power, roads etc) , rule of law etc. However, in the past 3 or 4 years, the country has completely stagnated, with no visible progress anywhere. Corruption is widespread, but prosecution of it non existent. As a result, foreign investment has all but dried up, keeping unemployment rate the highest in Europe at over 50%. The PM's party has spread it's tentacles everywhere the state exists, including civil services, police, judges etc. The state is the party! It is no wonder Thaci will use every trickery and scheme to remain in power. There is a very high chance he or some of his close friends will be prosecuted for the misdeeds if they lose power. But even if they don't get prosecuted, they will lose access to all the state privileges. In Kosovo, without access to state institutions and their funds, you are nothing. All business are connected to the state/party. Given all this, Thaci wants to remain in power at all costs, damned be the country, damned be democracy!


What's next?
The Kosovo parliament is supposed to reconvene again in one weeks time to try to re-elect it's leadership. The PM's party is insisting again that only it can propose the leader of the legislature and it is using the ceremonial head of parliament, Flora Brovina ( oldest deputy leads the first ceremonial session), to prevent opposition from even proposing their candidate. Instead, it is making an absurd assertion that the opposition has to vote for it's candidate. If nothing changes by next week and the parliament fails to elect it's leadership, the country goes to another round of unnecessary election. One hopes that Thaci will come to his senses soon and let the normal democratic process play its course in parliament, but one cannot hope too much with him. He is likely to drag the country through mud if it means he will remain even a caretaker PM for a few more months. What a shame!