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27 Sep 10

Key Political Parties in Kosovo

As preparations begin for Kosovo elections in the next four to six months, Balkan Insight brings you profiles of the main political parties which will be vying for power in the early poll.

Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK
The PDK is Kosovo’s largest political party and currently leads the government, with party leader Hashim Thaci the incumbent Prime Minister.

The party was founded on May 14, 1999, from the political wing of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

It was first named the Party for the Democratic Progress of Kosovo, but in May 21, 2000, changed to the Democratic Party of Kosovo.

PDK’s Bajram Rexhepi was Kosovo’s first post-war prime minister, after the party secured second place in the 2001 elections and formed a coalition with the LDK, Democratic League of Kosovo.

The PDK again came second in the 2004 elections but this time did not form a coalition. In the November 2007 poll the party came to power with the largest share of the votes with 37 seats.

Hashim Thaci, the former political leader of the KLA, then formed a government with the second-place LDK, which had been weakened by the creation of a splinter party, the Democratic League of Dardania, LDD.

Although the PDK originally had Socialist tendencies, including agreements with the Labour Party in the UK, it now sees its policies as firmly on the centre right.

It’s heartland is the Drenica region of central Kosovo, but it has municipalities throughout the country, including the city of Prizren.

In the November 2009 local elections, the PDK again secured the highest number of votes.

The PDK, and particularly its leader Thaci, has had a rocky relationship with the other party to have emerged from the ranks of the KLA, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo led by Ramush Haradinaj.

Thaci and the party have come under sustained pressure from the international community in 2010 to clean up politics in Kosovo. One of its most powerful and popular members, the current Minister of Transport Fatmir Limaj, is currently under investigation by the EU rule of law mission, EULEX, over his ministry’s handling of road tenders. He has denied all wrong doing.

Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK
The LDK is Kosovo’s oldest party, and currently the second-largest. It is a junior partner in the PDK-led coalition government.

In response to the removal of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989 by Slobodan Milosevic, the Democratic League of Kosovo was formed by a group of intellectuals headed by Ibrahim Rugova, seen as the pacifist leader of Kosovo’s struggle for independence.

During the 1990s, the party, which was banned by the Yugoslavian authorities, led the Kosovo Albanian parallel structures, successful calling for boycotts of the census by ethnic Albanians and organising a referendum on self-determination in 1992, in which 87 per cent of the Albanian population in Kosovo voted for independence.

The party has played a part in every post-war government, winning the 2001 and 2004 elections.
Rugova was Kosovo’s president from 2002 to 2006, until he died of lung cancer.

After the death of this figure of Kosovo’s peaceful struggle for independence, the battle for the leadership of the party led to a split, with the formation of the Democratic League of Dardania, LDD, led by then-speaker of parliament Nexhat Daci.

In the November 2007 elections, the party came second, securing 27 seats, to the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and formed a coalition government.

Its leader, Fatmir Sejdiu, is also president of the country.

Relations with the PDK were strained during the local elections in November 2009, particularly over the bitter campaign for the mayoralty of Pristina and the formation of local-level coalitions between the LDK and other parties, but the parties have continued to work together in government.

The LDK came second in the elections, returning Isa Mustafa to the position of mayor of Pristina.

Its policies are broadly centre-right.

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK
The AAK was formed in 2000 by former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj.

Following the 2004 election, the third place AAK formed a government coalition with the LDK, and Haradinaj became prime minister in December that year.

His time leading the country, however, was short lived as he resigned from the position in March 2005 after learning that he had been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for war crimes. In his absence Agim Ceku assumed the position.

He was acquitted by the tribunal in April 2008 and returned to a hero’s welcome in Kosovo and resumed his duties as president of the party, although he is not a member of parliament as could not stand in the November 2007 elections.

The party gained the fourth-highest number of votes and has 11 seats in parliament.

The AAK’s support base is in the west of the country, from where Haradinaj hails, and it has been largely unsuccessful in carving out new strongholds outside of this area.

Despite this, Haradinaj is widely seen as the main alternative to Hashim Thaci for prime minister of the country.

In the 2009 local elections, the AAK made the biggest gains of any political parties in terms of overall votes in the mayoral and assembly poll, although this translated into only one extra mayor for the party.

In July 2010, the ICTY ruled that Haradinaj should face a retrial, which could deprive the AAK of their charismatic leader for the 2011 elections.

Ideologically, the AAK is centre-right.

New Kosovo Alliance, AKR
Formed in March 2006 by millionaire businessman Behgjet Pacolli, the AKR had an immediate impact on the political scene by taking 12 per cent of votes in the November 2007 elections, pushing the AAK into fourth place. It has 11 deputies in the assembly.

Pacolli is considered by some to be the richest ethnic Albanian. He made his wealth through the Swiss-based building firm Mabetex, which has secured a number of major contracts in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Its early electoral success, however, was not repeated in the local polls of November 2009, when it formed an alliance with the Democratic League of Dardania. Its municipal assembly result fell from 11.55 per cent to 8.3 per cent compared to the 2007 elections.

In line with its business roots, the party is centre-right with a strong emphasis on a free market economy.

Democratic League of Dardania, LDD
LDD was created in 2007 following disagreements over who should lead the LDK in the wake of President Rugova’s death.

It was established by the former Speaker of the Assembly, Nexhat Daci, following his unsuccessful bid to become leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo.

Ideoligically, however, it has not departed from its LDK, centre-right roots.

The Democratic League has nine seats in the assembly, making it the fifth-largest party.

Independent Liberal Party, SLS
The Independent Liberal Party was formed in 2006, securing five seats in the national assembly in the 2007 elections, making it the largest party representing Serbs in Kosovo.

The SLS is part of the PDK-led government coalition and has two ministers in the cabinet.

Led by Slobodan Petrovic, the party secured the mayoralty in three municipalities in the November 2009 local elections: the Serb-majority areas of Gracanica, Strpce and Kllokot.

Although the party does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, it aims to ‘protect the interests of the Serb communities in Kosovo-Metohija’.

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