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14 Oct 13

Why the Strong Party could matter

Nate Tabak

If Facebook ‘likes’ equalled votes, Visar Arifaj would stand a good chance of being the next mayor of Pristina. Arifaj is the candidate of Partia e Forte - the Strong Party.

The Strong Party is a parody. But if the 32,000 people who have clicked ‘like’ on their Facebook page voted, the party could have very real power. In 2009, only about 70,000 people voted in Pristina. Isa Mustafa’s crushing victory in Kosovo’s capital required fewer than 39,000 votes.

The chances of Arifaj actually winning the race, though, seem slim. But what does seem very likely is that the Strong Party will win seats on the municipal assembly. The assembly has 51 seats, making the threshold for winning one quite low. If this does happen, the question is, what will voters be getting?

The Strong Party takes the worst qualities of Kosovo’s politicians and satirically celebrates them. Recently, the party made a big show of proposing to construct a mayor’s mansion modelled on the White House.

A party member registered a company for the sole purpose of bidding on the tender for it. Given the constant drone about corruption, nepotism and outlandish uses of public money, the Strong Party has brought a refreshingly different approach to engaging the public about very serious problems.

The idea isn’t original. In the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, the mayor and six city council members belong to the satirical Best Party - elected in 2010 in the wake of the country’s devastating financial crisis. Its most important promise was to break all its promises.

The Strong Party is trying to walk a fine line, acting silly while still insisting that it can do the business of government - including balancing the budget. The question for the party will be what to do with its power should it win any seats in the election. It won’t be an easy one to answer.

Full disclosure: Pristina Insight is designed by Trembelat, a company owned by Strong Party leaders Visar Arifaj and Yll Rugova. Trembelat has suspended working on the newspaper for the duration of the local election campaign as part of an agreement with Pristina Insight.
Nate Tabak is Pristina Insight editor. Pristina Insight is BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper in Kosovo.

 

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