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Op-ed: Why does Kosovo democracy fail to satisfy its citizens?

Photo: AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu via Tanjug

The lack of accountability and responsiveness of the national governments of Kosovo has created deep disillusionment of the citizens with the evolution of democratic life.

Some 9 years after its unilateral declaration of Independence from Serbia, citizens of Kosovo express highly pessimistic views concerning the state of democracy of their country. As a result, the already fragile democracy continues to be internally challenged by the vicious cycle of persistent dissatisfaction of the citizens.

After the bloody conflict with Serbia in 1999, under an international administration, Kosovo created progressively a network of democratic and state institutions that became part of the new state declared in February 2008. Considering Kosovo’s three transitions to democracy, market economy, and new statehood, it is the weak capacity of the government and institutions to formulate policies and to carry them out that are at the core of the problem of dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction can be analyzed through the two classical dimensions of the democratic system.

First dimension: Procedures and practices of the democratic institutions.

Public opinion polls and interviews with civil society representatives indicate that further state and democratic consolidation is seriously hampered by the actors involved in the democratic processes. More specifically, the lack of accountability from the part of the political class undermines their effectiveness and responsiveness in the process of policy making.

The majority of respondents believe that institutions are opaque and not willing to cooperate with each other. In the same vein, the lack of electoral accountability is seen as the lack of implementation of electoral promises together with the absence of value of general public good from the public policies.

These problems affect also the perception of the citizens towards the importance of the vote. The stagnation of the economy and the persistence of the problems have an eroding impact towards the significance of the election process as showed in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Do you think that vote can change the situation in Kosovo?

Figure 1

Source: UNDP Survey 2016

Second dimension: Democracy with values

Analysis of the factors of dissatisfaction reveals the deficiency of the government in providing equal access to public resources and services such as education, employment, legal and health system. Most respondents, for instance, argue that the governments do not improve and enhance the employment opportunities for the citizens.

As figure 2 indicates, the assessment of democracy correlates positively with assessment of economic situation. As Kosovars see widespread poverty, they are dissatisfied with the performance of democratic institutions.

Figure 2. Democratization and Economic Confidence Indices

Figure 2

Source: UNDP Public Pulse poll 2016

Does this mean that Kosovars will reject democracy? No! Public dissatisfaction does not mean a rejection of democracy per se as a type of government, but it is predominantly a result of the ineffective performance of the political actors and institutions.

The exodus of most Kosovans during 2014 and 2015 to European countries can be understood in the context of the poor performance of the government and lack of values in its policies. Increased accountability and performance of Kosovo’s institutions would increase the quality of life of Kosovo citizens as well as their overall satisfaction with Kosovo’s institutions.

Pranvera Tika is a PhD candidate at the departement of Political Sciences of Panteion University in Athens, Greece and a junior researcher at ELIAMEP think tank in Athens.

Note: This oped was produced as part of a research project ‘Building Knowledge of New Statehood in Southeast Europe: Understanding Kosovo’s Domestic and International Policy Considerations’ funded by Kosovo Foundation for Open Society.