by Perparim Isufi
Amid rising infections, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani and leaders of political parties could not agree to accept a recommendation by the country’s Public Health Institute to postpone local elections scheduled for October 17.
President Vjosa Osmani told media on Monday evening, after meeting the leaders of Kosovo’s political parties, that because of a lack of consensus, the local election process will go ahead as planned and the October 17 polls will not be postponed.
Kosovo voters will go to the polls after a spike in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks which has caused the Public Health Institute to express concern that the public gatherings expected during the campaign could make the situation worse.
“Based on the current epidemiological situation… the Public Health Institute thinks that an election process that includes public gatherings represents a danger that infections will spread and increase and, as a consequence, there is a danger of an increase in cases involving fatalities,” the Public Health Institute wrote in a letter to President Osmani last week.
“We recommend postponement of the election process – specifically, banning public activities and citizens’ gatherings until the next epidemiologic evaluation,” the Institute said.
But Osmani said the parties could not agree to this.
“Despite the recommendation, the prevailing opinion was that election process should not be postponed. I respect the right of the parties,” she said.
Only Prime Minister Albin Kurti, leader of the ruling Vetevendosje, and some of his allies from ethnic minority parties supported the recommendation.
“We have an improvement in the [epidemiologic] situation recently and in order for this improvement to not stop, we are in favor of postponement,” Kurti said.
But the recommendation was not well received by opposition parties.
“Our position is that the health of citizens should be a priority but also the health of democracy,” Memli Krasniqi, the head of the opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, told media after the meeting with Osmani.
Another opposition leader, Lumir Abdixhiku from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, also opposed the postponement of the elections but promised that his party will only be active for only five days during the election campaign instead of the 30 days allowed under election legislation.
“Elections cannot be postponed because it creates a precedent. I have asked each [LDK] candidate to respect the measures and not contribute to an increase in infections,” Abdixhiku said.