Ballot box in Zubin Potok, April 21, 2024. Photo: BIRN/Valon Fana

Vote for North Kosovo Mayors’ Dismissal Fails Following Low Turnout

Kosovo’s CEC announced on Sunday that the vote for dismissal of four mayors in northern municipalities has failed as commissioners waited for 12 hours in front of mostly empty ballot boxes.

More than 46,500 voters are registered in the four Serb majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo to cast ballots, but only 253 citizens exercised their right to vote on Sunday, in an unprecedented process, to dismiss their mayors.

“Based on the voter turnout data in this process, we inform you that the majority of registered voters did not vote as required by Article 72 of the Law on Local Self-Government in the Republic of Kosovo, so the necessary 50% was not reached, therefore we conclude that the citizens’ initiative for the removal of the mayors of Leposavic, Zubin Potok, Zvecan and North Mitrovica municipalities has failed,” Kreshnik Radoniqi, the head of Kosovo Central Election Commission, CEC told the media.

In Leposavic, the turnout has been 0.91 per cent, in North Mitrovica 0.59, in Zubin Potok 0.26 while in Zvecan no voter casted the ballot.

Kosovo prosecution announced they “did not identify any case of criminal violations against the right to vote”.

BIRN teams were in the four municipalities monitoring the process throughout the entire day. In the village of Socanica, in Leposavic, a BIRN team reported that the voting booth did not face the wall, and therefore the voter could not have full privacy while casting the ballot. In this polling station, the proximity of the citizens to the voting booth is very close, and this could have jeopardized the secrecy of the vote.

BIRN team also reported that in the voting center in the village of Koshtove in Leposavic, there is no electricity or heating, while even the improvised container as a voting center is leaking water due to the rain.

Valmir Elezi, spokesperson of CEC told BIRN that alternative polling centers were regulated at the last minute, whereas regarding the placement of the voting booth, the decision was taken to prevent the photographing of the ballot by the citizens.

One polling station in Leposavic, April 21, 2024. Photo: BIRN/Adelina Ahmeti

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani called for the EU “unfair measures against Kosovo to be immediately removed”.

“Kosovo gave the citizens of the northern municipalities the opportunity to remove the current mayors. Citizens largely did not take advantage of this opportunity. Unfortunately, this mainly happened due to pressure from Belgrade, executed by the Srpska Lista and illegal criminal structures. Once again, Serbia illegally interfered in another country’s election process. Once again, Vucic violated the promise he had given to international partners,” Osmani said.

Srpska Lista announced on Facebook that “we want to reiterate clearly that we were more than ready to participate in this process to see the back and replace these fake mayors in our municipalities, but we didn’t want to play games directed by the regime in Pristina that would make sense the whole process and prevent the removal of Kurti’s pulens, and then they would present it as some sort of legitimacy”.

The scheduled vote on the dismissal of the four mayors was put into question early this month after Srpska Lista representatives submitted their resignations to the CEC.

“We received resignations from the four members of Municipal Election Commissions who were appointed as representatives of Srpska Lista,” Valmir Elezi, CEC Spokesperson, told BIRN.

The resignations came only days after the CEC set up municipal commissions in the four municipalities, appointing four officials to head them. It also appointed 27 members representing parliamentary parties.

Srpska Lista announced that it would boycott the vote to dismiss the mayors less than three months after it organised mass collections of signatures to make the dismissal vote possible.

The party blamed Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s alleged wish for the vote to fail.

“The position of Srpska Lista is to not participate in the referendum called by Albin Kurti because he has done everything for the vote to fail,” Zlatan Elek told the media.

The four municipalities ended up with ethnic Albanian mayors after Serbs boycotted the local elections in April 2023.

As a result, North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok saw mayors from ethnic Albanian parties elected to office on tiny turnouts of only 3 to 5 per cent.

On January 17, hundreds of residents in the four municipalities signed petitions to dismiss the mayors elected by a handful of votes. After reviewing the signatures, the CEC announced their validity for the four municipalities and announced a date for a dismissal vote.

For a mayor to be dismissed, 50 per cent of the overall number of voters need to vote in favour, plus one. Otherwise, a repeat initiative can only be made one year later.

21/04/2024 - 21:03

21 April 2024 - 21:03

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