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Kosovo 'Elections:' Based on Terror & Fraud -
The BHHRG Report,17 November 2001

[This report was prepared by Dr. David Chandler. It is Posted with the kind permission of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, 28 November 2001. For some interesting Further Reading, go to end of page.]
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Faking Democracy and Progress in Kosovo

1. Background

“This was an extraordinary election.”[i] The pronouncement of US Ambassador Daan Everts, OSCE Mission chief, running the elections was very apt. These elections were truly extraordinary in many respects.

One extraordinary aspect is that they were held in a legal vacuum. Kosovo is neither an independent state nor any longer under the government of Serbia or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The question of statehood is to be postponed to the indefinite future while the United Nations assumes the responsibility for governing the province, through the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) headed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SGSR) the former Danish foreign minister, Hans Haekkerup.

The provincial government elected on 17 November reflects this lack of international legal framework. The new post-election arrangements are outlined in a document titled ‘A Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo’.[ii] This is not a constitution but a ‘framework’ for a constitution and not self-government but ‘provisional’ self-government. The ill-defined legal and political status of the former Yugoslav province, reflects Western powers’ diminished respect for state sovereignty and the crumbling formal framework of international legal and political equality. (1)

Kosovo is an ‘extraordinary’ political experiment because the system of ‘dual power’ of an international governing administration alongside a subordinate, domestically-elected administration, which developed in an ad hoc manner in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is here for the first time officially institutionalised. The new framework for a ‘constitution’ of Kosovo, is the first modern political constitution to explicitly rule out democracy. The preamble states that the ‘will of the people’ is to be relegated to just one of many ‘relevant factors’ to be taken into account by the international policy-makers.[iii]

The executive and legislative powers of the UN Special Representative remain unaffected by the new constitutional framework. Chapter 8 of the framework lists the powers and responsibilities reserved for the international appointee, which include the final authority over finance, the budget and monetary policy, customs, the judiciary, law enforcement, policing, external relations, public property, communications and transport, housing, municipal administration, and the appointment of regulatory boards and commissions. And, of course, the power to dissolve the elected assembly if Kosovo’s representatives do not show sufficient ‘maturity’ to agree with his edicts.[iv]

2. Sham Elections

Many international plenipotentiaries, including US President George Bush, Nato Secretary-General Lord George Robertson and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, urged the Kosovo public to turn out to vote, particularly the Kosovo Serbs. When it emerged that around 60% of the Albanian and 50% of the Serb voters had taken part, the elections were loudly hailed by the international organisers and observers to be a ‘glorious day in the history of Kosovo’ and as a ‘huge success’.[v] The question of why the international community chose to spend millions of dollars holding elections for a provincial administration with token office-holders with highly circumscribed powers was, unfortunately, rarely asked.

These elections were extraordinary in the importance attached to them, not just because of the lack of power awarded to the victors, but also the fact that the results were largely irrelevant once the electoral ‘engineering’ of the OSCE and UNMIK was taken into account. The largest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Ibrahim Rugova, which won 46% of the votes, would not have been able to form the government even if they had won a land-slide victory. This was because the seats in the seven-member presidency and positions in the new ministries were already divided in a fixed ratio in advance. For example, the largest party and second largest party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) under Hashim Thaci, with 25% of the votes, were to have two seats in the presidency with the third party holding one seat, the two remaining seats were reserved for Serb and other minorities. This system of dividing the seats before the elections made the international pressure on Belgrade to encourage Kosovo Serbs to vote, in order that they might have more of a say in the future of the province, rather bizarre. The Serb community was already guaranteed 10 reserved seats in the 120 seat assembly, a seat on the presidency and at least one of the nine ministries, regardless of whether any Serbs voted at all.

I was monitoring the Kosovo elections on behalf of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group with the official international observation mission of the Council of Europe. It did not take long to see why the extravagant hype had taken over from the mundane reality of the elections. At the start of the Council of Europe observer training, Lord Russell Johnstone, the President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, put the elections in the broader context of international intervention today. ‘The international community needs to prove that intervention was benign [in Kosovo and East Timor] and will create better conditions. These elections are a proving exercise.’ Lord Johnstone is probably correct to see the November elections as little more than a ‘proving exercise’ for the international institutions involved in the violation of Yugoslav sovereignty and the promotion of ‘military humanitarianism’ in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This would seem to be confirmed in the stated concern of the OSCE organisers to achieve an election that made the international mission appear ‘legitimate and credible’.[vi]

Bearing in mind the international importance of the ‘success’ of the Kosovo elections, the ‘independent’ observation mission of the Council of Europe claims that the provincial elections were ‘free and fair’ should not necessarily be taken at face value.[vii] It is highly doubtful that these elections would have been passed as ‘free and fair’ had they taken place outside the international supervision of the OSCE. The election conditions, in which there was a complete absence of freedom of movement for minority communities, and many of the OSCE election regulations covering the media and political parties, failed to meet basic internationally accepted standards, such as those laid out in the OSCE’s 1990 Copenhagen Declaration on Democracy and Political Pluralism.[viii] The following sections compare the claims of the OSCE against the reality of Kosovo in more depth.

3. Creating Multi-Ethnic Society?

Without visiting the region it is difficult for outside observers to imagine the depth of fear and insecurity which pervades the province despite more than two years of government by the international community’s expansive ‘peace-building’ mission. (2) There has been a highly restricted number of Serb and minority returns to Kosovo, and the UNHCR estimates that since the UNMIK administration took over more minorities may have left the province than returned.[ix] One reason for this is that Serb and other ethnic minorities still have no freedom of movement in Kosovo. The lack of movement could be seen when we visited the allegedly multi-ethnic ‘zone of confidence’ in Mitrovica, which has no Serb minority and is basically a Bosnian Muslim settlement policed by a 24-hour UNMIK armed guard. Or when we walked further along the Ibar to the uninhabited ruins of the Roma ‘Malhalla’, formally the largest Roma settlement in the Balkans, destroyed after the war. It is not yet possible for any of the 7,000 former residents to return in safety.

The ethnic-apartheid ruled over by UNMIK (3) also had a direct impact on the election campaign and election monitoring. The Council of Europe election observation teams were told not to enter minority Serb or Albanian areas within their allocated municipalities because it would be too dangerous for their drivers and interpreters. Apart from indicating the complete separation of the Serb and Albanian communities, this instruction also meant that the ‘independent’ observers had a highly restricted view of the elections. One further impact of the lack of security for ethnic minorities was the fact that the voters’ list, the basic tool to guide election campaigning, was considered to be sensitive information. The voters’ list was not available to be used by political parties and could only be consulted if no notes or photographs were taken, making full transparency impossible.[x]

Far from admitting to the failures of the Nato intervention or the subsequent ‘peace-building’ programmes of the UNMIK administration, and the ethnic-apartheid, which is in place, the OSCE had boasted that the elections were overcoming ethnic divisions. One reason for this statement was that there were allegedly minority members on the polling station committees.I was observing in the north of the Mitrovica area, in Leposavic, a moderate-dominated Serb area, I saw no minority committee members and asked an OSCE polling station supervisor if the policy had been dropped. He replied that the polling station committee were all minority community members as they were all Serbs. Classifying mono-ethnic polling station committees as minority ones makes the OSCE election organisation look artificially multi-ethnic. This artificial ‘engineering’ to create multi-ethnic institutions on paper is also promoted as an important outcome of the elections themselves. Every level of government, including the Presidency, the Ministries and the Assembly will have reserved places for minority community members. These minority members will be bussed in to meetings from minority enclaves under heavy military guard. Multi-ethnic government will be created by edict, but this will not reflect the divided society, nor help to break down inter-ethnic barriers. The insecurities of minority and majority communities are not caused by ignorance or irrational prejudice but by rational concerns that the artificial and temporary nature of the current settlement imposed by UNMIK can not be sustainable.

The lack of refugee return and poor treatment of non-Albanian minority communities, was one reason for the low turn-out in some minority areas of Kosovo, particularly in the Serbian enclave north of the Ibar river which divides the town of Mitrovica. At some polling stations turn-out was under 10%.[xi] In Leposavic around a third of the 6,500 population were refugees. I visited the refugee centres for Roma and Serbs displaced from southern Kosovo. I spoke to Gushanig Skandir the head of the Roma camp, who showed us around the overcrowded and poorly funded site, where large families were forced to share single rooms and use outside toilet and washing facilities despite the winter cold.He told me that after waiting three years their centre had received a new roof 20 days ago, he believed this international aid was because he encouraged the adults in the camp to register to vote and to encourage the Roma refugees to vote on election day. He was sceptical about the elections but felt the Roma might receive more aid from the international community if they voted. The following day I saw him at the polling station in the local school. Gushanig may have made the pragmatic choice to vote but many other refugees and displaced people in similar situations told us that voting could make no difference especially as the leading Serb representatives would have seats in the Assembly anyway.

In an attempt to portray the low turn-outs as unconnected to the lack of freedom of movement and alienation of minority communities, Daan Everts declared: ‘The only thing which marred what was a glorious day in Kosovo’s history was that some Serbs in the north of Kosovo were too intimidated by other people in their own community to come out and vote’.[xii] This claim was repeated on BBC World television, in international press headlines and in the post-election International Crisis Group report, which stated that ‘the intimidation of would-be Serb voters marred the election in Serb-controlled region north of the Ibar river’.[xiii] The intimidation claims were news to the independent observers in the region. I attended the Mitrovica area debriefing for the Council of Europe observers after the elections and intimidation was not mentioned, the observation team for the north Mitrovica municipality received not one report of intimidation. At a post election party for internationals the mystery was clarified when I spoke to the OSCE regional trainer for the Mitrovica area who told me that his boss’s claims of intimidation were based on highly dubious allegations ‘of people staring outside polling stations and looking inside them’.

4. Political Pluralism, Free Press and Civil Society?

The OSCE and UNMIK regard the Kosovo political parties as a hindrance rather than a help in addressing the problems of the province. They are seen to be lacking maturity and in need of ‘continuous support from the OSCE Democratization Department to enhance their organisational capacity and to increase their political and social possibilities to advocate for democratic changes’.[xiv] Daan Everts argued that the political parties were so out of touch that the international community was, in effect, more democratic and more representative of popular opinion. He stated that the OSCE needed to inform the political parties of the concerns of the people and to encourage them to respond to the demands of the electorate.[xv]

As part of the process of making political parties more ‘accountable’ there are a host of restrictive regulations of the political sphere. These include the fining of newspapers if they favour a major political party. Epoka e Re was fined DEM 1,000 for ‘a clear bias in favour of the PDK in its election political reporting’ while Bota Sot was fined DEM 2,750 for coverage which was favourable to the LDK.[xvi] I asked Lucia Scotton, the Council of Europe’s Mission in Kosovo’s media monitoring officer, how these fines squared with the OSCE’s claim to be encouraging a free and independent media. Her view was that although it was an international norm for a free press to take a political position favouring a particular party in election campaigns, the fines were ‘reasonable’ because the press in Kosovo was not professional or mature enough to act freely and independently yet.[xvii]

The OSCE Code of Conduct for political parties also breaches internationally accepted democratic norms by holding political parties responsible for the actions of their supporters.[xviii] I asked Adrian Stoop, the Chief Commissioner of the OSCE Election Complaints and Appeals Commission about whether this regulation complied with international standards.[xix] He replied that ‘In Holland this law would be unthinkable.’ He explained that the internationally-appointed Commissioners supported regulations which they would not accept in their own countries because the international administrators found it hard ‘to get a grip on what is happening’ and ‘didn’t speak the language’. In order to give the international regulators greater control, the rules had to be more pragmatic and flexible to try to influence the political parties and the political climate.

The OSCE election ‘engineers’ also sought to limit the influence of the political parties once they got into power. Daan Everts stated at a training session for Council of Europe observers that ‘these elections force a certain degree of power-sharing’, undermining the power of the larger parties by restricting their positions and influence in the new institutions.[xx]He added that the OSCE had learnt from the municipal elections last year ‘to impose a bit more’. The flexible ‘framework’ for a ‘constitution’ allows the line between international and domestic responsibility to be easily blurred. Firstly, UNMIK has established ‘international advisors’ for the President, Prime Minister and ministers and each ministry will also be overseen by an international ‘Principal Advisor’. Secondly, the functions reserved for the UN’s Special Representative are so vaguely defined that they cover much of the responsibilities ‘devolved’ to the nine ministries. However, in the true spirit of transparency and accountability the UNMIK spokesperson says that at this stage ‘it is hard to describe’ what powers will be needed to carry out these reserved functions.[xxi]

While the political parties were being restricted at least it appeared that one area of political life was booming, civil society. The growing strength of civil society was indicated by the fact that this year there was more than twice the number of domestic observers as last year, representing 1% of the electorate. Daan Everts described the elections as the ‘best monitored elections this century’.[xxii] In fact, according to the OSCE, there ‘could be the highest proportion of election observers to voters in the world’.[xxiii] One does not have to be a hardened cynic to wonder why 1% of the population would be so keen to observe the elections. I thought it would be interesting to find out. When I asked the NGO observers more about how they got involved I was surprised to find out that many did not know what ‘their’ NGO did or what its’ initials stood for, and had got involved through being invited by a friend. This was particularly true for those observing on behalf of one of the best represented domestic NGOs, the KMDLNJ (Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms) based in Pristina. The reason the KMDLNJ had so many observers was probably because they were paying people DEM 80 to take part. CeSID a Serbian-based NGO with close links to the OTPOR student movement was paying people DEM 25 to observe. The other NGO observers were paid somewhere between the two.

The dynamism of civil society, like every other aspect of these elections was a fake. In the regional de-briefing back in Pristina, all the observers noted that the domestic observers were rather disinterested in the proceedings. It seems likely that the OSCE and its international sponsors’ actions of buying-in civil society NGOs will have little positive impact in the longer run. It hardly encourages people to take communal responsibility for democracy if people are paid half-a-month’s wages to ‘volunteer’ to be part of the democratic process. The statistics for domestic observers may have looked good on paper but the OSCE’s approach of artificially ‘engineering’ the effect it wanted may only set back any genuine attempt to involve the Kosovo public in the political process. If civic NGO involvement is promoted as an election-related job, like interpreting and driving for the internationals, then this undermines, rather than promotes, the idea of voluntary civic engagement.

5. Conclusion

The November 17 elections in Kosovo were phoney in every major respect. They were phoney in that under the fiction of multi-ethnic government they helped legitimise a society that provides no normal existence for ethnic minorities, merely imprisonment in ethnic enclaves and military escorts to visit family cemeteries or former homes and villages. They were phoney in that through the fiction of ‘staring’ Serbs the responsibility for the low turn-out in some regions was seen to be the fault of minorities themselves, rather than the ethnic segregation overseen by the international community. They were phoney because under the guise of promoting media freedom and independence, freedom of expression and political debate were further restricted. They were phoney because under the guise of promoting political pluralism, majority rule was replaced by a consensus imposed by the UN’s Special Representative. They were phoney because under the fiction of a vibrant civil society the OSCE and its partners corrupted the process of encouraging civic engagement. Most importantly, they were phoney because under the fiction of democratic autonomy for the people of Kosovo, they legitimised a constitution that openly replaced the ‘popular will’ with the unaccountable power of an international protectorate.

The OSCE and UNMIK are celebrating the elections as a major international success. They may have secured some international legitimacy for their tin-pot protectorate and won kudos for their ‘success’ in encouraging ‘democracy’ and ‘peace’ in Kosovo. However, phoney elections can only create phoney consultation bodies. The reduced election turn-out among the Albanian voters and the low turn-out for the Kosovo Serbs suggests that the domestic legitimacy of the international protectorate may be the real sticking point for the future.

This report was compiled by Dr David Chandler, Policy Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University. He is the author of Bosnia Faking Democracy After Dayton (Pluto Press, 1999, 2000) and From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention (Pluto Press, March 2002). He can be contacted at D.Chandler@lmu.ac.uk.


[i] ‘First Official Results in Kosovo Election Announced’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 19 November 2001.

[ii] ‘A Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo’, UNMIK/REG/2001/9, 15 May 2001.

[iii] ‘A Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo’, UNMIK/REG/2001/9, 15 May 2001, p.4.

[iv] For further background information on the framework for provisional self-government, read: Simon Chesterman, Kosovo in Limbo: State-Building and “Substantial Autonomy”, International Peace Academy, August 2001. Available from: <http://www.ipacademy.org/>; Independent International Commission on Kosovo, The Follow-Up: Why Conditional Independence? September 2001. Available from: <http://www.kosovocommission.org/>; International Crisis Group, Kosovo Landmark Election, November 2001. Available from: <http://www.crisisweb.org>.

[v] ‘Kosovo’s Election Hailed a Huge Success’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 17 November 2001.

[vi] International Crisis Group, Kosovo: Landmark Election, Balkans Report, No.120, Pristina/Brussels 21 November 2001, p.1.

[vii] ‘Kosovo Assembly Elections Bring Democracy Forward and Strengthen regional Stability’, Council of Europe Election Observation Mission in Kosovo Press Release, Pristina, 18 November 2001.

[viii] Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the OSCE. Available from: <http://www.osce.org/docs>.

[ix] Interview with Leonard Zulu, Senior Protection Officer, UNHCR, Pristina, 13 November 2001.

[x] Information provided by Peter Urban, Director of Elections, OSCE, Council of Europe Training Programme, Pristina 13 November 2001.

[xi] Information provided by OSCE Spokesperson Claire Trevena, 21 November 2001.

[xii] ‘Kosovo’s Election Hailed a Huge Success’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 17 November 2001.

[xiii] Nicholas Wood, ‘Serbs “Face Threats at Polls”’, Observer, 18 November 2001; International Crisis Group, Kosovo: Landmark Election, Balkans Report, No.120, Pristina/Brussels 21 November 2001, p.i.

[xiv] Kosovo’s Concerns: Voters’ Voices (Pristina: OSCE Mission in Kosovo, 2001), p.iii.

[xv] Daan Everts, ‘Foreword’, Kosovo’s Concerns: Voters’ Voices (Pristina: OSCE Mission in Kosovo, 2001), p.iii.

[xvi] ‘Fines Given for Political Violence and Reporting Bias’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 10 November 2001; ‘Newspaper Sanctioned for Photo’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 16 November 2001.

[xvii] Interview, Pristina, 18 November 2001.

[xviii] ‘The Code of Conduct for Political Parties, Coalitions, Citizens’ Initiatives, Independent Candidates, Their Supporters and Candidates’, Electoral Rule No.1 1/2001, OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Central Election Commission. Available from: <http://www.osce.org/>.

[xix] At the Council of Europe Training Programme, Pristina, 13 November 2001.

[xx] Speech at the Council of Europe Training Programme, Pristina, 13 November 2001.

[xxi] UNMIK-OSCE-EU-UNHCR Press Briefing, 22 November 2001. UNMIK Unofficial Transcript.

[xxii] ‘Calls for Kosova’s Serbs to Vote’, RFE/RL Newsline, Vol.5, No.214, Part II, 9 November 2001.

[xxiii] ‘Plea to Election Observers: Be Patient’, OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) Press Release, Pristina, 9 November 2001.

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COMMENTS & FURTHER READING:
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Prepared by John Flaherty and Jared Israel, Emperor's Clothes

1) UN Resolution 1244 guarantees that Kosovo will remain part of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) campaigned for the exact opposite during an earlier provincial quasi-election. See "Solana and Kouchner push Kosovo 'Independence'" by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/lovein.htm

* (Return to Report, above)

2) In his informative report on the Kosovo elections, posted above, Dr. Chandler writes that Serbs have been subjected to a reign of terror in Kosovo "despite more than two years of government by the international community’s expansive ‘peace-building’ mission."

We in the NATO countries have been taught that our leaders are basically decent, but make mistakes. We are told that if bad things happen in countries undergoing NATO 'nation-building' it is in spite of, not because of, NATO leaders.

But in Kosovo, the evidence on the ground is overwhelming. Kosovo has suffered an unprecedented reign of terror by Albanian secessionists because of - not in spite of - NATO and UN control.

Many articles on Emperor's Clothes document this with abundant references from the mainstream media and from highly credible observers. The following is a small but important sample:

* "TERRORISM AGAINST SERBIA IS NO CRIME" Jared Israel and Rick Rozoff show how NATO and the UN have gone 100% against the promise, made in UN Resolution 1244, to prevent Albanian secessionist terrorism in Kosovo. Instead this terror has been encouraged. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/nocrime.htm

* 'What NATO Occupation Would Mean for Macedonia'. NATO's nightmarish control of Kosovo is documented in interviews with three women from the town of Orahovac. They describe NATO's lofty promises prior to taking over the province; NATO's actual entrance, alongside the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army; the transformation of Orahovac into a death camp for Serbs and 'Gypsies' under NATO management. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/misc/savethe.htm

* 'Women of Orahovac Answer the Colonel'. In this interview, three Serbian women refute a Dutch Colonel's surreal description of life in the brave new Kosovo town of Orahovac. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/interviews/trouw.htm

* 'Driven from Kosovo: Jewish Leader Blames NATO - Interview with Cedda Prlincevic'. Mr. Prlincevic was President of the Jewish community in Kosovo in the summer of 1999 when NATO - and the terrorist KLA - took over. Mr. Prlincevic, at the time the chief archivist of Kosovo, describes how he and thousands of others were driven from their homes by the Albanian terrorists with NATO's approval.

* For those of us in the West, who tend to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt, it is amazing to consider the career of the Kosovo Protection Corps. Formed by top leaders of NATO and the UN in the fall of 1999, from the outset it was comprised of members of a terrorist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The terrorist nature of the UN-sanctioned Kosovo Protection Corps is documented in "How Will You Plead at your Trial, Mr. Annan?' at http://emperors-clothes.com/news/howwill.htm

The use of the terrorist Kosovo Protection Corps to invade Macedonia is documented in 'SORRY, VIRGINIA, BUT THEY ARE NATO TROOPS, NOT 'REBELS'"

* (Return to Report, above)

3) Dr. Chandler argues that the West has introduced apartheid-like conditions in Kosovo. This is discussed in the "Statement of President Slobodan Milosevic on The Illegitimacy of The Hague 'Tribunal,'" which the kidnapped and imprisoned Yugoslav leader tried to deliver when he appeared before The Hague 'Tribunal' on 30 August 2001. We have all been told that Milosevic is a demagogue whose speeches advocate religious and ethnic hatreds, but how many have read his words? Whenever he tries to speak at The Hague, they turn off his microphone. He can be read at http://www.icdsm.com/more/aug30.htm

Speaking of Milosevic, the media campaign portraying him as a monster began with a speech he gave in Kosovo in 1989. It is described as inciting race war. Read it. He argues that Serbia's strength is its ethnic diversity. 'What Milosevic Really Said at Kosovo Field (1989)' can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/milosaid.html

* (Return to Report, above)

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