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15 Dec 10

Kosovo's Vetevendosje Makes Leap From Street to Parliament

Newcomer's strong showing in weekend election highlights disillusion of large number of voters with results of mainstream political parties and disgust with corruption.

Petrit Collaku

Kosovo observers were mulling the surprisingly strong showing of the nationalist Vetevendosje [Self-determination] movement, which came third in Sunday’s national elections with 12.2 per cent of the vote, according to the Central Election Commission’s preliminary results on Monday.

Leader Albin Kurti only decided in June to contest the elections, saying his aim was to change Kosovo, not just its leaders. "The change is not being done for the sake of changing those who hold power but for the sake of changing Kosovo’s image," Kurti said in summer. 

Kurti, whose movement espouses union of Kosovo with neighbouring Albania, appears to have done especially well among the young, capitalising on a strong anti-incumbency mood, disappointment with the country's continuing poverty and resentment of endemic corruption. 

He was backed on the campaign trail by former US diplomat William Walker, who exposed the Recak massacre in 1999 when he worked as an OSCE observer.

"I voted for Vetevendosje because they are the only party that will fight corruption in Kosovo," a student told Balkan Insight. "Parliament is stronger than ever now," said another, adding that it was Vetevendosje that fought hardest for students in recent years.

"The movement has always fought for human rights in Kosovo," a 23-year-old said. "I don’t think Kurti will join [outgoing premier Hashim] Thaci in a coalition because they differ like night and day."

"I haven’t voted for the movement but I am glad that they did so well," a 50-year-old man said. “Kurti has declared that he will not go into coalition with Thaci. If he does, he will lose all this support in the next elections."

On Monday, the party presented the findings of its observers who have complained of voter manipulation and fraud in some constituencies. 

The movement said that it would contest the results from four polling centres, all sited in strongholds of Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK.

At a press conference, some of the movement's observers claimed that they had been intimated and even beaten by militants of the PDK and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, led by Ramush Haradinaj.

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