Kosovo Serbs in three out of four municipalities in the north have submitted requests to start the process of removing their disputed mayors via citizens' petitions.
Kosovo Serbs have submitted requests in three municipalities in the Serb-majority north, North Mitrovica, Zvecan, and Zubin Potok, to start the process for the removal of their mayors.
The request comes around three months after the Ministry of Local Government issued an administrative order regulating a lengthy process to dismiss mayors via petitions.
According to this regulation, at least three citizens with the right to vote in a certain municipality must form an initiating group and then notify the chairman of the municipal assembly of their aim to collect signatures for a petition to remove the mayor.
Serbian-language media outlet Kosovo Online reported that Sanja Lazarevic-Krtinic, from North Mitrovica, one of the three citizens who had submitted a request, claimed that only citizens in Leposavic municipality did not submit a request. This was because the municipal assembly chair and the new mayor there “did not permit acceptance of the request”.
She claimed that citizens will continue attempting to submit a petition in Leposavic.
The regulation explains that after receiving the notice from the initiating group, the chairman of the municipal assembly must inform the respective mayor, the Ministry of Local Government and the Central Election Commission, CEC.
Nexhat Ugljani, chairman of North Mitrovica’s assembly, told BIRN on Friday that he has accepted the request and will notify the mayor, Erden Atic, the ministry and CEC, explaining that “according to the administrative regulation we have a five-day deadline” to examine the request.
Citizens in North Mitrovica attempted to submit the request on Tuesday, when Lazarevic-Krtic had claimed the elections in April this year “were not democratic … [as] only 2 to 3 per cent of the voters elected this mayor and … more than 95 pe rcent of Serbs did not choose him”.
April’s local elections in the north were largely boycotted by Serbs, in Mitrovica North, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok, which led to mayors from ethnic Albanian parties being elected on tiny turnouts of 3 to 5 per cent.
The attempt on Tuesday had failed because, as Ugljani told the media, the notice had not been given to him in accordance with the regulation in place. Ugljani told BIRN that Thursday’s request also contains “some legal irregularities because they did not come by notifying the chairman but directly with the request”.
If Ugljani and the chairs of the other municipal assemblies do not register the initiating group as an authorized party within the five-day deadline, the group may “ask the CEC to examine the request and register it as an authorized party”, according to the regulation.
Within five days of the registration of the group, the municipal assembly chairman asks the CEC for the number of registered voters, which CEC has to provide to the chairman, the initiator group and the ministry.
A minimum of 20 per cent of these registered voters must sign the petition. Within these five days the chairman of the municipal assembly should also provide the initiator group with an official format for signature collection, to hold the petition. If the chairs fail to do so, the group can ask the ministry for the documents.
Within 30 days, with the option of a 15-day expanded deadline, the initiator group must collect at least 20 per cent of the signatures of the registered voters and then send the petition to the chairman of the municipal assembly, who must submit it to the CEC within three days of receiving it.
The CEC can give the initiating group another ten days if they find that the 20-per-cent minimum requirement has not been met. If the minimum signatures requirement is met, the CEC organizes elections within 45 days for the removal of the mayor.
For the mayor to finally be dismissed, 50 per cent of the votes plus 1 from the overall list of voters is needed. Otherwise, a second initiative can only be taken one year later.
The probability for the process to fail is high. According to CEC data from the 2019 local extraordinary elections, which Kosovo Serbs from the north did not boycott, the turnout exceeded 50 per cent only in Zubin Potok, where it was 51.07 per cent. In North Mitrovica the turnout was 39.38 per cent, in Leposavic it was 42.53 per cent, and in Zvecan 45.30 per cent.
08 December 2023 - 15:43
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