Kosovo polling place, general elections 2017. Photo: Atdhe Mulla

‘I was misled’

The upcoming local elections in Kosovo are important for Serbs. But even if we want to vote for someone other than Srpska Lista, we will be deprived of that right in front of our very eyes.

Local elections in Kosovo are to be held on October 22. Even though many Serbs believe they know what lies ahead, with the final outcome of the parliamentary elections still on our minds, we sometimes tend to forget about the upcoming elections.

To many Serbs in Kosovo, the political situation is especially interesting. This year we voted far more than we should have in a normal election year – first in the Serbian Presidential elections, then came the Kosovo general elections, and now Serbs are yet again invited to vote in the upcoming Kosovo local elections. With everything that happened over the past few months–the decisive role that The Serbian List, Srpska Lista, played in Kosovo’s general elections and their backing, in the end, for Ramush Haradinaj’s premiership– it is not at all strange that the elections ahead are overshadowed by those that we just left behind.

‘Our’ Serb representatives from Kosovo will accept anything offered to them ‘in order to serve the interests of Serbian people in Kosovo.’ Questions about how backing the Haradinaj coalition could be seen as serving the interests of the Serb community are for a whole different conversation. These local politicians celebrated  Srpska Lista’s entry into Kosovo’s Parliament, a victory of Aleksandar Vucic, and Serbs from Kosovo can assume what sort of similar celebrations await us for the end of October. But let’s wait and see.

We should not let the Kosovo general elections overshadow the upcoming local elections, and we shouldn’t have the impression that the upcoming local elections are not all that important. It’s actually quite the opposite. Local elections have been and are important, even perhaps more important than general elections.

Local elections may be the only chance for Kosovo Serbs to elect people that exclusively work for us and make decisions about our lives on a daily basis. These candidates are our neighbors, acquaintances, fellow citizens. These are people that we know well. We are therefore entitled to elect the best of them. But can this truly be the case?

Amidst all the talk about the future of the Kosovo, the media also broke the news that some Municipal Assembly candidates from northern Kosovo withdrew their candidacies: in fact, two candidates from the Civic Initiative  SDP – Oliver Ivanovic, CI SDP, did so. After submitting their candidacies and electoral lists, these two members of the CI SDP withdrew and then supported Srpska Lista. Both of their requests to withdraw were, word for word, identical.  

Local media reported that they both said that they were “misled” when accepting their candidatures. We can only imagine or suggest what really happened with these candidates. For us Serbs from Kosovo, it looks like someone directly influenced their decisions.

If anyone was ‘misled’ during this entire process, it was members of the Serb community in Kosovo, who still hope to have the freedom to choose their representatives. Because even if you want to vote for someone else than the Srpska Lista, you will be deprived of that right in front of your very eyes, and your freedom of choice will be brought down to the bare minimum. According to the Serbian government, there is only one true Serbian List, and the rest are traitors. This is absurdity at its best.

I want to make clear that I’m not saying I support one party over another, but I want to highlight that what happened to these two candidates in the north could happen to us all.  Even though more than one party takes part in these elections, the choice is already made for you. Even if you want to confront them, propose a new solution and decide to enter the political race, it can happen that you may be ‘misled.’ Because that’s how the north has functioned for a long time now.

People fighting for their bare survival will support anyone who promises a job or possibly a  higher salary. What’s worse is that they cannot be blamed. They are not to be blamed for living in a disputed land for years, in an environment in which former state-owned enterprises are closed and the most you can hope for is to look for a better place to live. They are not to be blamed, not the slightest bit. It is the politicians that we’ve trusted for years who brought us to this position of having no political freedom, unemployment, and a lack of political transparency.

In the end, however bad it sounds, if survival is at stake, everyone in the north can now be ‘misled.’ If employment, survival, or basic life problems for Serbs are at stake,  changing parties or claiming to be ‘misled’ can be considered a normal situation for all of us.  For the same reasons, we shouldn’t be blaming certain political candidates, because we never know why they said that they were ‘misled.’

In the end, nothing remains but our hope that this will change. How? For starters, by using our right to elect representatives in local assemblies, and trying to fight for a better future. Or perhaps we can start by questioning why it’s beneficial for us to establish a Haradinaj-led government, or questioning why we say ‘Kosovo is the heart of Serbia’ while simultaneously celebrating Serb participation in the Kosovo Parliament. Maybe we can try to release ourselves from all the times we’ve been ‘misled’ for years.

In all truth, perhaps none of this will initially bring us jobs or money to get through the month, but it may bring us back our right to elect our representatives without having them imposed on us, as has the case been thus far. Having Belgrade tell us who will best represent us has proven to be extremely counter-productive time and time again. If we can change this dynamic, maybe we can finally have politicians that actually listen to us. Perhaps after all this time, people in the north could be rewarded for their successes and abilities, and not because they belong to a given political party: in this case, to the party which is supported by Belgrade. Perhaps. And until that possibly better tomorrow, nothing remains but to wait for the upcoming elections and god knows what else… and for god knows how many other things we might be ‘misled’ by.  

The opinions expressed in the opinion section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.

15 September 2017 - 14:36

Nevena Radosavljevic

15/09/2017 - 14:36

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.