Kosovo Roma and Bosniak representatives say they suspect the Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party engineered the election results in seats reserved for their communities in order to maximise its voting bloc in parliament.

Some political representatives of the Roma and Bosniak communities in Kosovo as well as civil society organisations have claimed that the seats their representatives obtained in Kosovo’s parliament in the February elections were essentially arranged by the Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party, Srpska Lista.

Both the winning Roma and Bosniak parties received many of their votes from Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo on February 14, 2021, elections, raising suspicions that these parties collaborated with Srpska Lista to get votes.

Veton Berisha, of the Egyptian Liberal Party, PLE, is one of the minority politicians raising questions about the alleged interference of Srpska Lista in the election results.

His allegation is that Srpska Lista – certain of victory within the Serbian community – encouraged some of its supporters to donate their votes to non-Serb non-majority communities, in an attempt to gain more allies in the Kosovo parliament.

A total of 20 of the 120 seats in the Kosovo Assembly are reserved for non-Albanian communities – 10 for Serbs and 10 for other communities – Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Bosniaks, Turks, and Gorani.

On Friday, the PLE said the election results published by the Central Election Commission show that “it is clear that ‘Romani Initiative’ is a product of” such collaboration, as it received votes from areas “where the Roma community does not live”.

Romani Initiative, a new citizens’ initiative competing for the four seats allocated to the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities, received 3,827 votes, coming first out of nine entities competing for the seats.

It is expected to get both the seat reserved for the Roma and an additional seat that goes to the most voted party from among the three communities.

The party received 287 votes in the mainly Serbian Ranilug and Partesh municipalities even though the OSCE in 2018 estimated that these municipalities have no Roma residents at all.

Romani Initiative also received 244 votes in Serb-majority Leposavic – which is home to only nine residents from the Roma and Ashkali communities, the OSCE said.

Romani Initiative also received nearly half of its votes in Serb-majority Gracanica – 1,620. The PLE’s Berisha told BIRN’s online magazine Prishtina Insight that he believes there are no more than 300 to 400 registered Roma voters in Gracanica.

Kosovo has only around 2,000 Roma citizens in total.

The Romani Initiative has denied allegations of vote-fixing with Srpska Lista.

Members of the Bosniak community have also voiced concerns that some political entities collaborated with Srpska Lista, after a newly established citizens initiative, Ujedinjena Zajednica (United Community) – Adrijana Hodzic, won numerous votes in Serb-majority municipalities.

Around 48 Kosovo Bosniak NGOs have released a joint statement saying they will not recognize MPs elected by the votes of other communities as legitimate.

The NGOs said they consider “efforts to take Bosniak seats in the Kosovo Assembly” via votes from other communities a flagrant violation of the constitution and the rights of non-majority communities.

“This primitive form of politics that is trying to be installed is unacceptable and is aimed at taking control over non-majority communities and having greater political power in the Kosovo Assembly,” the statement reads.

In an interview for BIRN Kosovo’s show Jeta ne Kosove, Adrijana Hodzic denied the allegations, claiming she received lots of votes from the Serbian community due to her work in interethnic collaboration in Serb-run North Mitrovica, where she is a deputy mayor.

In her first run in the parliamentary elections, Hodzic received 6,379 votes, leaving former MPs from the Bosniak community far behind and out of the parliament.

Hodzic received most of her votes in Serb-majority municipalities. In Leposavic, she received 1,129 votes and 1,780 in North Mitrovica. She also received 494 votes in Shterpce/Strpce, as well as 407 and 405 respectively in Zubin Patok and Zvecan.

Hodzic received only around 225 votes in Prizren which, according to the 2011 population census, is home to over 16,000 Bosniaks.

Prior to the election, BIRN reported allegations that Srpska Lista was seeking to expand its parliamentary power by encouraging its supporters to vote for candidates from Kosovo’s non-Serb ethnic non-majority communities that were sympathetic to the party.

Duda Balje, an MP candidate for the Social Democratic Union, SDU, had told BIRN’s Debat Pernime show in January that Srpska Lista did not need around 10,000 of the votes it had received in the 2019 elections to get the 10 reserved Serbian seats. She claimed that some of these votes would go to two new established initiatives, Ujedinjena Zajednica – Adrijana Hodzic and the Romani Initiative.

Balje’s claims were supported by Nenad Rasic, leader of the Kosovo Serb opposition “Sloboda” coalition in the 2019 election. Rasic explained that a Bosniak candidate could be elected as an MP with as little as 2,500 to 3,000 votes, and a Roma candidate with as few as 1,500 votes.

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