Albert Krasniqi for Vicinity Chronicles, 20 September 2022
As a result, the denigration of public debate has reached the point where overnight you can be both a traitor and a hero. High polarization has discouraged taking clear positions on controversial topics.
Compared to the countries of the region, political parties in Kosovo are steps behind in terms of ideological articulation and membership in international organizations of political parties. Of the ten political parties represented in the Assembly of Kosovo, only one is a member of international organizations (European People’s Parties), while the other parties are in the application phase. The low integration of political parties of Kosovo in international organizations is a consequence of not prioritizing the ideological definition related to historical factors of the emergence and development of political parties in Kosovo that are related to efforts for liberation and independence. In the years after the declaration of independence, the public discourse in the political scene has been dominated by the topic of integration into the European Union and the dialogue with Serbia for the normalization of relations. For both of these topics, the space for ideological differences has been narrow. The first topic was more perceived as a technical process for fulfilling the EU criteria, while the second one had no differences for the final result that was intended, but more differences were in the approach followed by different parties that have been in power.
Another factor that has influenced the lack of ideological clarification of the political parties, has been the way politicians have based the election campaign to get votes only in the municipalities where they come from. This focus on geographic areas was intended to use family and friendly ties, and not to present ideas about how to govern. The space left by the lack of ideological debates has been exploited by populists, which has produced polarity in society and has fueled sharp divisions between the “elites” and the “people”. As a result, the denigration of public debate has reached the point where overnight you can be both a traitor and a hero. High polarization has discouraged taking clear positions on controversial topics.
It seems that not expressing one’s views is rewarded with more votes than taking a clear position on controversial topics. Such was the calculation of the political parties in the debate on allowing marriages between the same sex. Although they were present in the hall of the plenary session in the Assembly, the deputies of the opposition political parties did not participate in the voting of the Draft Civil Code, which provided for cohabitation between persons of the same sex. For the opposition, “the handling of sensitive issues belongs to the parliamentary majority”, and the Government only cares about having the numbers in the Assembly to defeat the opposition. The topic of marriage between persons of the same sex caused division even within the deputies of the parliamentary majority. For a part of them, the objection was to “preserve public morals”, and for the rest it was a guarantee of personal freedoms. Ideological deviation within the parties, but also positions contrary to the ideological determinations, are also being encountered in the issue of the strike of teachers and public officials at the local level. The ideological wonder is that the three right-wing parties in the opposition have declared in support of the demands of the unions, while the only left-wing party in the Government is against them, even to a much harsher extent than when the right-wing parties have been in power.
Albert Krasniqi has over ten years of experience in the civil society sector in Kosovo