Kosovo Elections: Lessons for Muslims?

It may seem that little Kosovo (in the usual Russian spelling — Kosovo) is not the country to which the world’s Muslims should pay special attention. After all, the war in Kosovo ended a long time ago, and the recent elections, which have little impact, are perceived by ordinary people as «political fuss». To some extent this is true, but this «fuss» has its own interesting aspects, especially for Muslims. This small state, not yet recognized by all countries, should be of interest to Muslims because it is one of the three countries in all of Europe with a Muslim majority and an indigenous population. The other two are Albania, which is ethnically identical to Kosovo, and Bosnia.

Thus, the elections held at the end of last week for the Kosovar parliament brought changes to the political landscape of the country. The forces that led the armed struggle for the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian occupation suffered a defeat — their Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, led by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, received only 11.5% of the vote. The main reason for this defeat is considered to be the clan-corruption system of power and wealth distribution created by the winners in the country, which has led to widespread poverty and a significant population outflow. In other words, the ruling group did not fulfill the dreams of the people of Kosovo for a bright future of a new independent state — the situation is quite typical, but such power cannot always be removed through free elections… And the Democratic Party of Kosovo, led by the former moderate leader of the liberation struggle, Ibrahim Rugova, who was once pushed into the background by the radicals who took over the leadership, became one of the two winners in these elections, receiving 25.04% of the votes. This party is characterized by a more liberal and even more pro-European orientation.

But the most interesting thing is who took the first place with 25.71% of the votes. The winner turned out to be the party «Self-Determination», which is actually represented in politics by reformed Albanian communists. They focus on social issues, but also on pan-Albanianism, i.e. the desire to unite all Albanians in one state — the «Greater Albania». The first step towards this, of course, would be the unification of Kosovo and Albania into one state.

And this is serious, because not long ago Albania passed a law granting its citizenship to all persons of Albanian origin, these two countries signed an agreement on the unification of diplomatic representations, and the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, declared that if the EU does not accept Albania into its membership and does not grant Kosovo a visa-free regime, they will unite.

It is necessary to understand the context of such arguments. As a result of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, many time bombs were formed in the form of their non-compliance with the ethnic composition of their populations. These include «Albanian» bombs in the form of Albanian regions in Macedonia and, to a lesser extent, on the border with Serbia, as well as a large Serbian «bomb», the Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, cleansed of its Slavic Muslim population (Bosniaks). Perhaps this is why the Serbian leadership reacts quite positively to the strengthening of the Albanian forces in Kosovo — its representatives have repeatedly stated that Kosovo is lost for the Serbs (except for the northern regions, where they live compactly), but the Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina is of «vital interest to the Serbian people».

Of course, it is not certain that Kosovo’s new leadership will actually follow the path of union with Albania, especially since its next government will clearly be a coalition. In this case, however, the Greater Serbian forces, resigned to the loss of Kosovo, may not be too upset and will use such a development of events to annex the Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Serbia, which its de facto leader Milorad Dodik has long been demanding.

However, unlike these hypothetical and non-obvious consequences, the recent elections had an obvious result — the traditionally poor performance of the bloc representing the «Islamic agenda» in Kosovo politics. The coalition of NISMA — AKR — PD does not seem to reach even 5% of the votes and risks not to enter the parliament at all, although the «Islamists» of the PD — Party of Justice, named after its Turkish counterpart, are only the third participant in the coalition.

And this is an interesting Albanian phenomenon. Although Muslims are the majority among the Albanians (there are also Albanian Catholics and even Orthodox Christians), the role of the Islamic factor in their politics is minimal. At the same time, Kosovo is considered the most Islamized part of historical Albania, which is associated with the more lenient regime of Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, of which it was a part, compared to the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania itself, which imposed radical atheism.

And here we see that even in the most Islamized Kosovo, a coalition that includes «Islamists» cannot even pass the 5% threshold. However, the same «Islamists» of the local «Party of Erdogan», as it is called, were able to get the second place among the Albanians in … the Orthodox Slavic Macedonia, in whose parliament their party BESA passed in 2016.

This is an interesting point, which once again reminds us that nationalist rhetoric among Muslim peoples does not always coincide with the agenda of Islamic forces. If we follow the logic of the Albanian communists, Kosovo would have been better off in Tito’s Yugoslavia, where Islam was moderately tolerated, than in Enver Hoxha’s Albania, where it was eradicated. In the same way, according to the logic of the Greater Albanians, the Albanian regions of Macedonia, where Islamic forces are strong, should join «Greater Albania,» where they will most likely lose these positions, not to mention the price at which it will be created and how it will affect the Muslims in neighboring Bosnia.

In short, this whole story is instructive from the perspective that for Muslims, whose hierarchy of values places religion first, neither the unification of their people’s lands into one state nor even formal independence should be sacrificed to this value.

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