Photo from the archives. EPA-EFE/Djordje Savic

Kosovo’s Blueprint for Mayoral Dismissals Meets Scepticism From Experts

After Kosovo authorities disclosed a long-awaited document on ways to dismiss mayors through petitions, experts doubt it will break the ongoing deadlock in the Serb-majority north.

After Kosovo’s Ministry of Local Government published an Administrative Instruction, in an attempt to ease the way for new elections in four Serb-majority municipalities in the north, experts have cast doubt over whether it will work.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Local Government, Elbert Krasniqi, announced that the government had finished drafting the Instruction on which ministry officials and other stakeholders have been working since the start of August.

“This Instruction gives the opportunity for the implementation of a right which is guaranteed by the law on local self-government. This is a right which provides for the exercise of citizens’ will in relation with the mayors they elect through a direct vote,” Krasniqi said on Wednesday.

Although the Instruction implies all mayors in Kosovo, the idea for it emerged only after the international community put pressure on Prime Minister Albin Kurti to find a way for new mayoral elections to take place in Mitrovica North, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok.

The current mayors were elected in ballots boycotted by most local Serbs and their legitimacy is contested.

Miodrag Marinkovic, from the Mitrovica North-based NGO CASA, said international mediation was needed in the case of new elections in the north to break the deadlock.

“Pristina is trying to solve the political problem by legal means [but…] we need some kind of agreement with the mediation of the international community on how this issue will be solved,” Marinkovic told Radio KIM on Friday.

He added that the main imperative is “urgency”, not a new legal framework, because the north needs local governments seen as having legitimacy by the citizens living there.

“Perhaps the resignation of these mayors, although Pristina sees this as a political defeat, is actually the most effective solution,” Marinkovic added.

The ministerial document says citizens’ request for dismissal of a mayor “should be signed by least 20 per cent of registered voters from the respective municipality.

“The request for dismissal of a mayor shall contain all elements and data according to the Administrative Instruction. Citizens shall be clearly and duly informed with the aim of the request and its effects,” the Instruction says.

It says the collection of signatures should be done “based on citizens’ free will, and the expression of any pressure or influence that imposes [signatures] is prohibited”.

Some experts in Pristina have questioned the point of this instruction.

Enver Hasani, former President of Kosovo’s Constitutional Court, told Radio Free Europe on Wednesday: “This is an issue of the lack of political will by those in power. If they want to regulate this issue, it would have already been forgotten,” Hasani said.

The European Union, as a mediator in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, has pushed the Kosovo authorities to announce early elections in the northern municipalities as soon as possible.

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 between 3 and 5 per cent.

When the authorities attempted to install these newly elected mayors in their offices at the end of May, they faced stormy protests from local Serbs, demanding that the mayors not work from municipality facilities and also demanding that Kosovo special police units be withdrawn.

On May 29, 30 NATO troops from the KFOR peacekeeping mission were injured in violent clashes with protesting Serbs. Around 50 protesters also received medical attention. The unrest prompted the US and EU to take measures to push the Kosovo government to calm the tensions.

Under current legislation, dismissal of a mayor is regulated by the Law on Local Self Government, Article 72, which says that citizens of a municipality may take the initiative to remove their mayor from office.

But there are some conditions.

“A request to this effect shall be signed by 20 per cent of the registered voters and be submitted to the Chairperson of the Municipal Assembly who shall refer the matter to the appropriate institution for the administration of voting,” the law says.

“If the majority of registered voters [then] vote in favour of the Mayor’s removal, new mayoral elections shall take place in accordance with the law on elections,” it adds.

This threshold could prove difficult to meet. In Mitrovica North, for example, 18,118 voters were registered for April’s mayoral elections, so at least 3,623 voters would need to sign the dismissal petition for it to be taken into consideration. And when the subsequent vote to dismiss the mayor is held, it would need the support of at least 9,060 voters.

08/09/2023 - 13:29

08 September 2023 - 13:29

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