European Union Office in Kosovo 
European Union Special Representative in Kosovo

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT : Well-organised elections with vibrant online campaign but longstanding deficiencies in the legal framework remain unaddressed

Pristina, 19/10/2021 - 13:15, UNIQUE ID: 211019_2
Local Statements

This preliminary statement of the EU election observation mission (EU EOM) is delivered before the completion of the entire electoral process. Critical stages remain, including tabulation of results and adjudication of petitions. The EU EOM is now only in a position to comment on observation undertaken to date, and will later publish a final report, including full analysis and recommendations for electoral reform. The EU EOM may also make additional statements on election-related matters as and when it considers it appropriate.

The 17 October municipal elections were well organised and fundamental freedoms were respected during the campaign. A plurality of contestants offered voters a real choice with the exception of the Kosovo-Serb municipalities where political competition was limited. Women were underrepresented in mayoral races and generally in party structures. While traditional canvassing was low-key, the online campaign was vibrant. Campaign financing was not transparent. The media contributed to informing voters by organising inclusive debates. Longstanding deficiencies in the legal framework remain unaddressed as well as nearly all previous EU election recommendations.

  • Calm and orderly voting was assessed very positively by EU observers. However, a significant number of cases of assisted voting was observed and the rules for acceptance of expired IDs as voter identification were not consistently followed. The counting of the ballots was less positive. In six out of the 31 counts observed, it was assessed negatively, mostly due to the inconsistencies in following procedures.
  • The candidate registration was inclusive. A total of 89 “political entities”, including 34 political parties, fielded 166 mayoral and 5,199 municipal assembly candidates. Although the 30 per cent gender quota for municipal assembly lists was respected, parties nominated few women mayoral candidates. The legal framework for the candidate registration contains unclear and contradictory provisions as well as disproportionate restrictions that are not in line with international standards for democratic elections.
  • Given COVID-19 measures, the candidates focused their campaigns on social media and TV debates. The contestants enjoyed equal rights to freedom of assembly, expression and movement. Mayoral races dominated the campaign which was largely driven by the personalities of candidates rather than their political parties’ platforms. The municipal infrastructure was the main topic, followed by health and education, agriculture and environment. Non-majority candidates campaigned almost exclusively in their communities. Srpska Lista (SL) has monopolised the political life in Kosovo-Serb communities and several EU EOM interlocutors have mentioned the instances of intimidation and pressure by SL candidates and activists. Inadequate legal framework for campaign finance, lack of meaningful oversight and limited awareness of the rules among contestants resulted in non-transparent campaign finance.
  • The legal framework provides an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections. However, serious shortcomings and contradictory provisions on candidate eligibility, voter registration, electoral campaign rules, Out-of-Kosovo (OoK) voting and electoral dispute resolution are yet to be addressed. Fifteen complaints were filed to the Electoral Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) during the campaign period. Three political parties were sanctioned for illegal campaigning and placement of electoral material. ECAP published most complaints, appeals and decisions on its website. 
  • An inclusive, transparent and professional election administration ensured that the preparations were completed within legal deadlines and was perceived by stakeholders as independent and credible. The Central Election Commission (CEC) held regular public meetings and most decisions have been adopted unanimously. The accuracy of the voter list has been improved, mostly because of the removal of many deceased persons from the civil registry.
  • The media environment is lively and pluralistic and media covered elections freely, without any obstruction of their activity. While the public TV RTK1 offered extensive and balanced news coverage of contestants, other major broadcast media showed less interest in municipal races. The public broadcaster and several private TV channels positively contributed to inform voters by organising inclusive election debates for most of the municipalities. The Independent Media Commission was not effective in enforcing the regulations.
  • The campaign online was vibrant, and the tone was generally moderate. Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (LVV) was the most active party on Facebook, followed by Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). Transparency and accountability of paid political advertising on Facebook were hampered by the absence of any requirement for political advertisers to register to place electoral advertisement on Facebook and Instagram. The EU EOM observed violations of the election silence period on social networks.

The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) has been present in Kosovo since 5 September following an invitation by the president of Kosovo. The Mission is led by Chief Observer, Mr Lukas Mandl, Member of the European Parliament (Austria). In total, the EU EOM deployed 94 observers from 24 EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland across Kosovo to assess the whole electoral process against international obligations and commitments for democratic elections as well as the Kosovo legislation. A delegation of the European Parliament, headed by Ms Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, MEP, also joined the mission and fully endorses this Statement. On election day, observers visited some 400 polling stations in 37 municipalities of Kosovo to observe voting and counting. The EU EOM is independent in its findings and conclusions and adheres to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation signed at the United Nations in October 2005.

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