While the municipal vote in Northern Kosovo can be considered a success, it revealed a few areas, such as voter registration, that need to be sorted out before the second round on 1 December, as well as for the parliamentary elections next year, says CEPI analyst Milan Nič after his fact-finding mission in the region.
The timing of Milan Nič’s visit in Kosovska Mitrovica could not have been better. As a result of a few incidents on the election day on 3 November, the Head of the Central Europe and South-East Europe Programmes at the Central European Policy Institute (CEPI), arrived just to witness the important re-vote held on 17 November.
Mitrovica appears to be a perfect example of the current political situation in Northern Kosovo. As Milan Nič pointed out, Mitrovica remains a divided city, which is „de facto Serbia and de iure Kosovo“ but he added that boycotters who contributed to marring the first round, refrained from campaigning. The resulting 22.38% turnout was higher than expected and is considered a success. The re-vote was incident free although the KFOR units‘ presence was very much visible.
Mitrovica will likely have a Serbian mayor as Krstimir Pantić won 37% of votes while his rival Oliver Ivanović won just 28.5%. However, the vote revealed major faults in the voters registration system as about 900 so-called conditional votes were cast by people who were not on the election register but claimed to be living in the area. According to Milan Nič, this issue needs to be sorted out before the second round scheduled for 1 December, and certainly before the parliamentary election next year, to minimize the potential for registration-related disputes.
The municipal election in Northern Kosovo followed provisions of the Brussels Agreement signed earlier this year and was seen as vital for both the success of the EU-mediated deal and the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The vote was also one of the conditions for Serbia to start the EU accession talks and it laid groundwork for establishment of the Serbian autonomy authorities. The next step will be reaching an agreement on the status of the parliamentary assembly of the Serbian minority.
The visit of Milan Nič was a follow-up on the Municipal Elections in Northern Kosovo: Towards a New Balance? paper he co-authored with Filip Ejdus, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade, and Leon Malazogu, Director of Democracy for Development Institute in Pristina.
The paper was often quoted by the regional media as it analysed roles played by Belgrade and Pristina, zoomed in on the developments among the Kosovo Serb political elite, and outlined four possible scenarios – optimistic, realistic, pessimistic and disastrous – evaluating their respective likelihood.