Kosovo has no plans to allow polling stations for Dec. 17 Serbian elections; EU not pleased

Kosovo has weighed in decisively on the question of allowing Serbia to set up polling stations in Kosovo in order for the diaspora to vote in the upcoming Dec. 17 parliamentary elections—with Kosovo deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi stating that no such elections “are planned” and that Serbia should ask permission to set up polling stations if this is its intention.

While this may sound reasonable at first glance, it flies in the face of previous tradition and also raises questions with regard to Kosovo’s motive. First, in the past said polling stations were allowed under the guise of the OSCE—a fact that the EU commented upon, saying that it regrated the decision of the Kosovo government  and adding that it is not “in accordance with the spirit of the dialogue” between the two countries, as cited by Time magazine.

This dialogue consists of the ongoing stop-start talks on the normalization of relations between the two states—which would ostensibly lead to Serbia eventually recognizing Kosovo as independent country, thus opening up a path to admission to the EU on both sides.

Yet the talks have stumbled in part due to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s repeated statement that Serbia will offer no such recognition, but also because Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti has rejected EU plans that would see Kosovo live up to previous agreements, which include the creation of a Community of Serb Municipalities (CSM) in North Kosovo. Kurti has also hedged on promises to allow Serbian dominated districts to hold repeat elections to select local mayors, following previously rushed elections that ethnic-Serbs banned in the wake of a walkout from local government jobs.

That walkout came as a protest to arrests and harassment, and the EU has since prodded Kosovo to once again allow local elections.

Yet blocking the polling stations for the Serbian diaspora may indeed have another benefit for Kosovo and Kurti. Many would assume that this diaspora will back Vucic’s thus far dominant SNS party. Whether these votes can seriously impact the Dec. 17 elections in Serbia is debatable, but Vucic and the SNS are facing at least a semi-united opposition and the elections may be close. Now ethnic Serbs in Kosovo will be forced to travel to Serbia to vote, which could mean less voters and less of an impact.

Photo by Gov.pl, CC BY 3.0 PL <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/pl/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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