In its first two years in government, Vetëvendosje has back-tracked or done nothing on almost all the issues it promised to prioritize and reform in opposition.
Late on the night of February 14, 2021, when preliminary results showed that Vetëvendosje had achieved a historic result in the early parliamentary elections, then-PM candidate Albin Kurti and Presidential candidate Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu addressed journalists and supporters.
Responding to questions about the EU-led dialogue with Serbia, Kurti declared that public opinion polls in Kosovo show that dialogue with Serbia ranks only sixth or seventh as the most important issue for citizens, and that his government will deal with it accordingly, prioritizing justice and employment.
Once in power, Vetëvendosje faced a political landscape that did not align with the map it had used for years in opposition.
Two years later, Kosovo and Serbia are on the verge of a historic agreement, expected to be finalized this March, while problems with justice and employment remain the same.
Initially as a civil organization and then as a political party in opposition, Vetëvendosje has operated according to a policy map that consistently criticized the negotiating process since the Vienna process, mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and then the Brussels-mediated negotiating process, initiated in 2011.
It criticized economic and fiscal policies, and the ill-governance of political parties in power. It promised to fight corruption, reform justice, increase employment, and take reciprocal measures in trade with Serbia as a governing party.
On March 22, 2021, the Assembly of Kosovo gave a vote of confidence to Kurti’s second government. This time, unlike in the previous mandate in 2020, when it was forced to share power with Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and other minority parties, the new government could rule alone and complete a full parliamentary term, which is something that has never happened since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008.
However, once in power, Vetëvendosje faced a political landscape that did not align with the map it had used for years in opposition. The biggest mismatch between Vetëvendosje’s map and the political landscape was the negotiation process.
For many years, Vetëvendosje had criticized previous governments for entering negotiations unconditionally, promising that if it came to power, it would insist on Serbia’s acknowledgment of war crimes, sharing information on forced disappearances of people in the last war, and compensation for war damages.
While in power, however, Vetëvendosje continued negotiations where previous governments had left off, and failed to meet the three conditions it had promised, in order to negotiate with Serbia.
While negotiations with Serbia were not one of the five priorities on Vetëvendosje’s map, the reality on the ground has shown that neglecting negotiations and maintaining the status quo also has a significant impact on economic development, job creation, energy supply, international cooperation, etc.
After two years of governance, we can say that Vetëvendosje’s map, as far as the dialogue with Serbia is concerned, has been adapted to fit the territory, rather than the other way around.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje promised full transparency.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje criticized previous governments for spending on official cars and using them for non-governmental duties. Once in power, Vetëvendosje continued the practice of previous governments, using official cars for election campaigns during local elections.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje promised full transparency. Now in power, Vetëvendosje is just as closed off as previous governments. Requests from journalists remain unanswered. Many requests for access to public documents submitted by civil society organizations, including the organization I work for, GAP Institute, do not receive a response in accordance with the Law on Access to Public Documents.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje promised an increase in the minimum wage. In two years in power, nothing has changed on the minimum wage, despite the price crisis caused by the highest inflation in post-war years.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje promised deep reforms in healthcare. But after two years in office, the situation in this sector remains the same and is characterized by major scandals and mismanagement. Even Vetëvendosje’s emphatic demand for the implementation of the Public Health Insurance Law has not been implemented in two years of government.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje criticized previous governments for distributing the budget to those municipalities that are governed by the same party that holds power at central level. Once in power, Vetëvendosje continued the same practice, investing 52 per cent of new capital investments at central level in the three municipalities governed by Vetëvendosje.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje was vocal about family and partisan employment within the civil service and in positions within independent institutions.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje criticized previous governments and especially the Municipality of Prishtina, for failing to spend the budget for capital investments. Once in power, Vetëvendosje had the lowest capital expenditures for the first six months of 2022, spending only 9 per cent of the budget allocated for capital investments, even less what was spent during the pandemic year of 2020.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje was vocal about family and partisan employment within the civil service and in positions within independent institutions. Once in power, in many cases, party members have been employed in positions that should have been independent, as is the case with the appointment of the CEO of the public enterprise “Ibër-Lepenci”.
While in opposition, Vetëvendosje was critical of governing parties that failed to convene plenary sessions and committee meetings due to absence of a quorum. Once in power, as a party that enjoys a simple majority in parliament, Vetëvendosje still fails to hold many plenary sessions, committee meetings, and many bills are delayed in those committees led by Vetëvendosje MPs.
With half of the mandate over, what can be expected for the remaining two years of governance?
In order to achieve success during the second half of the government’s term, Vetëvendosje should have laid the foundations of policies in these first two years, which it has not done in key areas such as health, economy, foreign policy, education or any other field of public policy.
The performance of the Vetëvendosje government has begun to resemble those internet memes where the product received in the mail is nothing like the product shown in the photo.
Agron Demi is a senior researcher at the GAP Institute and a regular columnist for Prishtina Insight.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.