Saturday, August 13, 2005

Kosova Elections 2000: All Slates Demand Independence

Kosova Elections 2000: All Slates Demand Independence


Newly elected Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova immediately demanded that Kosova's independence be recognised following his party's success in the October 28 Kosova municipal elections. US State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher quickly rejected this, saying under United Nations' resolution 1244 a decision on Kosova's “final status” should await construction of “democracy”.

The head of the United Nations' colonial administration over Kosova, Bernard Kouchner, commented: “Find me an Albanian who is for integration and dialogue with [new Yugoslav president Vojislav] Kostunica and I will be ready to initiate the process. For the moment I do not know such a person.”

Kouchner was backing down from an attempt to initiate dialogue with Belgrade, for which he was severely reprimanded by Kosovar Albanian leaders.

Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) was swept to victory in most municipalities, winning 58% of the vote. The three parties which arose from the disbanded Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) together received 35% of the vote, mostly for the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) of Hashim Thaci.

Why ex-KLA parties lost

If all Kosovar parties have identical policies on the issue of independence, what accounted for the victory of Rugova's party over the parties that arose from the KLA, widely credited with leading the resistance to Serbian oppression?

None of these parties had credible policies on the wide range of issues of vital concern to Kosovars, living in a wrecked country where little reconstruction has taken place and crime and violence have spiralled.

Rather choosing between “moderates” and “radicals”, as the Western media has interpreted the Kosova election, Kosovars were simply voting out the incumbents. Thaci's PDK had unofficially run local councils since the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops, and were seen as lacking the ability to deal with the situation.

Rugova is still held in high esteem by Kosovars for leading their decade-long peaceful resistance to Belgrade's rule. This is despite his sidelining from 1998 when the Milosevic regime's terror tactics rendered Rugova's continued insistence on “peaceful” methods obsolete and led to the rise of the KLA's armed defence of Kosovar Albanian villages.

The division of former KLA leaders into three parties also aided the LDK. The KLA was never a coherent political organisation, but rather a coalition of forces. The bulk of KLA units were simply the local village branches of Rugova's LDK taking up arms.

Not surprisingly, therefore, with Yugoslav troops gone, there is little reason for Kosovars to support the KLA's political descendants if they have no answers to current problems.

Furthermore, according to Pristina journalist Shk‰lzen Maliqi, “The PDK might have won more votes had some of its staff been less arrogant and violent in the build-up to the poll”. A series of attacks, mostly against LDK leaders, allowed that party to portray itself as the victim of political violence by the PDK.

Even though a number of former KLA fighters were also attacked, the perception stuck, in large part due to the arrogance with which some former guerillas, now in positions of power, have acted towards the population.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), a pro-imperialist intelligence organisation, the KLA “is no longer the universal popular movement it developed into during 1998 and the war, but rather a new kind of nomenklatura which is exclusive and now hard to join. Its leaders have consolidated the power they gained during or immediately after the war, and hold highly influential political and/or economic positions.”

The ICG is hardly an unbiased institution, claiming that parts of the former KLA are “a threat to” Kosova and that the UN police must “formally and systematically seek access to the intelligence and information about Kosova criminal elements” (alluding to the KLA). However, winning a military victory without a political program and inheriting a wrecked country is an open field for bureaucratic control and corruption as those holding administrative posts are able to feather their own nests.

Not all of this can be attributed to the former KLA leaders — Kosova has been run by a UN-appointed government, backed by thousands of NATO troops. As NATO and UN leaders are vociferously opposed to Kosova's independence, they have continually erected obstacles to measures for Kosovar self-rule. This has helped make Kosova ungovernable, while the UN's refusal to provide funding to the PDK-run councils, which it does not recognise, further undermined these authorities.

This lack of clear authority played into the hands of criminal gangs reining in the social catastrophe, whether or not linked to ex-KLA elements or former members of Yugoslav Communist bureaucracy in Kosova. The ICG recognises that “not all of the self-enriching activities of the nomenklatura are unambiguously criminal: some occupy a hazy middle-ground only possible in Kosova's unclear and unstable situation”. Yet the ICG does not draw the conclusion that ceding full control over Kosova to its people — independence — is the solution to such “unclarity”.

Kosova's future

The end of the Milosevic regime has raised the question of Kosova's future. Yugoslav president-elect Kostunica stressed in his inaugural address the same determination to reassert control over Kosova as his deposed predecessor. On October 12, Kostunica's deputy, Zoran Djindjic, said: “We insist that a small section of the Yugoslav army and Serbian police be stationed in Kosova in areas populated by Serbs.”

Similarly, Kosovar Serb leaders are showing new confidence, continuing to insist that the Albanian majority be re-subjected to Belgrade's rule. Serb leader Father Sava lamented that the Albanians “almost had independence in their hands” while Milosevic remained in power. “Now for Kosova Serbs there is some hope that the government will be able to protect our rights and the interests of our state [i.e., Yugoslavia].”

Kosovar Serbs boycotted the municipal elections explicitly due to opposition to Kosovar self-government. “We don't want to be part of institutions that would take our people further away from the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia]”, said Sava.

Meanwhile, Kosovar Albanians fear that Serbia has become the “favourite of the West” to the detriment of Kosova and other countries in the region, both on political questions and in terms of economic aid — NATO, after all, was never opposed to Belgrade ruling Kosova, but rather to Milosevic's counterproductive tactics in attempting to destroy the Kosova democracy movement.

Aside from Greece, Yugoslavia is the biggest market in the Balkans region, and a strong Serbian-dominated state there has long been central to Western policy. Most of the key road, rail and river links between western Europe and the Mediterranean and Black seas pass through Belgrade.

Kostunica was invited to the European Union (EU) summit in Biarritz, where an instant aid package of US$173 million was pledged as a “strong signal of support”. Yugoslavia has been admitted to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and invited to its November 27 meeting.

It has also joined the Stability Pact of southeast Europe, set up by the EU last year to coordinate imperialist control of the region, with lavish promises of economic support to the Balkan states.

Touted as the “most important European project in the upcoming years”, the pact was denounced at the recent Skopje meeting of member states — the promises have failed to materialise. Most of the 35 infrastructure projects selected for priority in the “quick start” program have not commenced, and there's little sign of the money.

However, while the Western powers will bend further toward Belgrade's position and continue to reject Kosovar independence, how they can prevent the Kosovars in the long term from seizing it is another matter.

If the UN and NATO allow Serbian troops and police to quickly return to Kosova, the KLA would be re-radicalised and UN and NATO forces would very likely come under attack. British Brigadier Robert Fry claimed the “greatest achievement of the last 15 months is the demilitarisation of the KLA”, but unless Kosova is handled with kid gloves, “the greatest risk of the next 12 months is [its] remilitarisation”.

The ICG observes that “a policy of open confrontation [between NATO and the KLA] would have carried a high risk of degeneration into an occupying-force vs guerrilla-band shooting war”.

However, if this is unacceptable, “and if pretending that residual KLA influence is not a problem is impossible”, then the “tough-minded co-option” of getting more pliant former KLA people to help govern Kosova might be necessary, according to the ICG.

Despite the talk of “co-opting” certain local elements to give a more legitimacy to the UN/NATO colonial administration, the essential imperialist concern is to ensure that steps towards Kosovar self-government are limited enough to prevent Kosovars wresting de facto independence from Belgrade and the UN/NATO.Hence the ICG complained that the unrecognised Kosova provisional government had “issued decrees which usurped the UN's authority and contradicted the internationally agreed status of Kosova as part of Yugoslavia... Other decrees will have a continued social impact long after a new government has been elected — such as those declaring contracts made under post-1989 law to be void.”

The last of these has been particularly galling to the Western powers, since it includes non-recognition of contracts signed between the Milosevic regime and imperialist companies which were buying into Kosovar industry as part of Milosevic's bargain-basement program of privatising the province's assets.French and Greek companies had bought into Kosova's crowning asset — the Trepca mining and metallurgy complex in northern Kosova, valued at US$5 billion. Work to rehabilitate Trepca is now underway, with a new $16 million investment by the US Morrison, the French Eramet and the Swedish Boliden firms.

This explains the role played by French NATO troops in partitioning Mitrovica and thus ensuring Serbian control of the mineral-rich northern part of Kosova. The Kosovar Serb boycott of the local elections and their participation in — and the Albanian boycott of — the recent Yugoslav elections have both confirmed this ethnic partition. The UN is to hold separate ethnic-based elections in Serb zones next year, a further step in this direction, which is the main outcome of last year's NATO war.

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