Kosovo NGOs are pitching proposals to parliament’s committee on election reform, but their diverse suggestions are splintering opinions about the kind of electoral system that should be adopted.

Parliament appointed the committee last May to implement a new system, complete with election anti-fraud measures, to address persistent irregularities. It reserved two seats for civil society representatives.

“Different positions devoid of clear arguments, poorly formulated, weaken civil society’s position on the committee. In the end, the committee will consider only political parties’ directives,” Centre for European Policy executive director Drita Maloku told SETimes.

Maloku said a common civil society stance would be to advocate for the best electoral models in the interest of the citizens, not the parties they represent.

“The system was targeted for failure during the elections on what we think went wrong. But people should be blamed because they administer the elections, not the system,” Pristina Institute for Political Studies (PIPS) head Leonora Kryeziu told SETimes.

There should first be a debate about whether to change the electoral system at all, Kryeziu said.

Instead, different NGOs rushed to offer proposals even though they lack knowledge of electoral systems, she added.

Civil society is now trying to achieve a unified position by creating Reforma Forum, a network of multi-ethnic NGOs and election experts.

“The last elections hurt the already fragile democracy in Kosovo. To prevent what happened from happening again, a large number of actors are mobilised, including a large number of NGOs,” Democracy for Development Institute official Valmir Ismaili told SETimes.

The Reforma Forum aims to reach a broad consensus among civil society actors, including NGOs that are not part of it, according to Ismaili.

The NGOs have already reached a compromise and will start an advocacy campaign throughout Kosovo, he said.

Civil society, however, is impaired by the small number of representatives on the parliamentary committee. The set up diminishes reform transparency and inclusiveness, as well as minimises the committee’s efforts.

“The political parties’ approach is not serious because people nominated by them on the committee, with very few exceptions, do not have great weight in the parties they represent,” Ismaili said.

Still, differences persist. The Reforma Forum has suggested that Kosovo have seven constituencies with open lists.

By contrast, PIPS argued a division into many constituencies would prevent competition throughout Kosovo, resulting in regionalisation based on political party strongholds.

“PIPS stands for a single constituency and closed lists. Electoral division into many constituencies is considered among the greatest risks for the electoral system in 2012, a form of political suicide,” Kryeziu said.

Voters say they know little about the committee’s work, are confused about civil society’s proposals and are worried about the reform outcome.

“It was a shame what kind of elections we had last time. Now, we see they are doing something, but I really do not know what exactly will happen. The political parties will commit [fraud] again,” Pristina resident Tahir Berdynaj, 60, told SETimes.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Setimes

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