This election is important – get out to vote!

This election is not about “bullshit”; it is about fighting through the electoral advantage that the parties in power have, to see who has the best offer for Kosovo’s future.

To write that this election is about “bullshit” – as Prishtina Insight advertised Mikra Krasniqi’s article on Facebook – is irresponsible. It is a message that discourages readers from voting. Why vote if all is “bullshit”?

People should vote. Massively. For the party or coalition they most believe in. Go to party events. Pressure your party to publish its governing program, if they have not done so already. Hear their promises. Hear their lies too. Ask tough questions. Think about what is feasible. Cast your vote.

There is always a clear electoral advantage for parties in power in Kosovo. They control the budget in the mandate prior to the election, thus they are able to offer jobs and tenders in return for votes. Keep in mind that there are roughly 300,000 jobs in Kosovo in total (according to International Labor Organization surveys), of which about a third are in the public sector. The parties in power have a way to make those employees vote for them. The same applies to expensive government tenders, which are awarded to supporters.

So when we think about the democratic process in Kosovo, we need to keep in mind that in a country with only a 30 percent employment rate, the electorate will be compelled to vote for the parties that have given them or their family member a job, regardless of how badly the parties have otherwise governed. To break this cycle of voting is very hard to do. It is a daunting task to put parties, which have used the public budget to keep themselves in power for so long, on the opposition bench. But it should be the objective of every election, until the electorate one day succeeds to do so.

Mikra Krasniqi asks: “Does voting in this election mean anything… for a young Kosovar with no education, poor training, no job, and no real prospects? Anything for an entire generation of schoolchildren stuck hopelessly at the bottom of an education system that does not nurture, but insults their intelligence?” The answer is a resounding YES.

The parties in power – who are now running against each other – promise to change the education system in Kosovo by implementing the “new curriculum” designed in 2011 and piloted in Kosovo schools for four years now. The reports from the field about the new curriculum are negative. No new textbooks followed the piloting of the curriculum so teachers do not know how to implement it with the old out-dated textbooks. Schools are underfunded and thus unable to provide the modern tools that the new curriculum demands for its implementation. In the four years of the piloting, not a single test was conducted with students to see if those who studied with the new curriculum achieved better results.

Addressing basic education is essential in Kosovo. The 2015 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that close to 80 percent of Kosovo’s 15 year olds are functionally illiterate. However, from the offer presented by the parties who were in power this past decade, we know that basic education will not be addressed in a way that will make the difference.

So, no. This election is not about “bullshit.” It is about fighting through the clear electoral advantage that the system in place gives to the parties in power, to see who has the best offer for Kosovo’s future. For education, economic development, health. Don’t be cynical. Don’t stand in the margins. Get engaged. Vote. Massively. Not for parties that governed badly in the last 10 years through. Make a difference this time.

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