Kosovo’s Pivotal Elections
On November 3, Kosovo held elections for municipal mayors and assembly deputies in all 38 districts of the country. The election elicited international attention as it tested relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
IFES Chief of Party in Kosovo Alan Wall answers some questions about the election.
How was the mood on Election Day?
Throughout most of Kosovo, observers reported that Election Day passed calmly and peacefully, with few incidents and irregularities. In contrast, the four northern, Serbian-majority municipalities of Zvecen, Leposaviq, Zubin Potok and North Mitrovica were very tense. Protests and demonstrations were held near polling stations throughout the day.
How was security on Election Day?
In most of Kosovo, Election Day had relatively few incidents. However, in northern Kosovo, there was not enough security to ensure a peaceful election, given the tension. While many turned up at polling stations ready to exercise their right to vote, there were numerous alleged incidents of voters being intimidated or threatened, and in some cases, prevented from voting. In addition to protests throughout the region, three polling stations in North Mitrovica were violently attacked and election materials were destroyed. Several polling station committees in northern Kosovo were forced to shut down their polling stations early. Further, on November 6, the Central Election Commission (CEC) annulled results from three polling centers; the next day the CEC announced a re-vote in these centers on November 17.
How was voter turnout, particularly in Serbian regions of Kosovo?
Excluding the four municipalities in northern Kosovo, preliminary data indicates voter turnout was around 47 percent. Participation in the four Serbian-majority municipalities was much lower: between 8 and 13 percent. In the predominantly-Serbian municipalities located in southern Kosovo, voter turnout was significantly higher, ranging from 39 to 50 percent.
Who observed the election?
In total, 21,030 observers representing 25 political parties were accredited to vote by the CEC prior to the election. Also accredited were: 30 civic initiatives with a total of 5,535 observers; two coalitions with 253 observers; four independent candidates with 167 observers; 15 embassies and liaison offices with 210 observers; four international organizations with 254 observers; two State institutions with 54 observers; 21 nongovernmental organizations with 2,479 observers; and 23 media organizations with 191 representatives.
When will the official results from the first round be announced?
It is unclear when official results for the mayoral and municipal assembly elections will be released. Polling station materials from all municipalities have been received by the Central Count and Results Center (CRC). All result records must be verified, tabulated and audited. Ballots from the four municipalities in northern Kosovo, conditional ballots, special needs ballots and out-of-country ballots will need to be verified before counting and tabulating.
The time required to verify all results is dependent on the number of irregularities found in materials sent from polling stations and the number of complaints received by the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel that will need to be reviewed. Once all materials have been verified at the CRC, the CEC will officially announce results. Mayoral results will be released first, as both the CEC and candidates will need to prepare for run-off elections scheduled for December 1.
How many municipalities are predicted to need run-off elections, and what steps are being taken by the election management body to prepare for potential run-off elections?
Based on preliminary results, it is expected that between 24 and 30 municipalities of Kosovo’s 38 municipalities will have run-off elections on December 1. The municipalities that hold run-off elections will remain unconfirmed until the CRC can verify results from polling stations and conditional and by-mail ballots are counted and included in the totals.
At this time, it is still unclear which municipalities in northern Kosovo will have run-off elections. Preparations for the December 1 run-off elections will be made in accordance with the Law on Local Elections and CEC procedures.
When will the elected officials take their seats?
Once all results have been certified by the CEC, the inaugural meeting of the Municipal Assembly will be called by newly-elected mayors from each municipality within 15 days of the certification of election results.