A number of important elections took place last week and this week, with a key election in Kosovo and other elections in Belarus and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Aside from a presidential election runoff in the Comoros on December 26, these were the last major national elections in 2010.
Kosovo held elections for its 120 seat Assembly on December 12, the first elections since the country’s controversial unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. There are 100 seats elected directly, with 10 seats for Serbs and another 10 seats for ethnic minorities. Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and leader of the left-wing Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won the 2007 election, which led to Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008. The PDK was founded as the political wing of the KLA and as thus appears much more militantly nationalist than the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) which was founded in 1989 by intellectuals more than rebels.
PDK 33.5% winning 39 seats
LDK 23.6% winning 27 seats
Vetëvendosje! 12.2% winning 14 seats
AAK 10.8% winning 12 seats
KKR 7.1% winning 8 seats
LDD 3.3% winning 0 seats
FER 2.2% winning 0 seats
There have been serious accusations of fraud in PDK strongholds, including some which reported 94% turnout when the national turnout was only 47.5%. Overall, however, it seems as if these elections were orderly and clean with some breaches and issues in certain areas.
Turnout was 47.5%, low but up around 7.5% since the last elections in 2007. Serbs, which make up around 4% of Kosovo’s population, living mostly in the north and in central Kosovo, saw heavier turnout than in 2007 especially in central Kosovo, though Serbian turnout remained quasi-null in the Serbian enclave of Mitrovica. The Independent Liberal Party became the biggest Serbian party with 6 seats while the Serb Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija won only one seat, down from 3 in 2007. Low turnout, however, also indicates voter dissatisfaction amongst ethnic Albanians, unhappy with the main parties given that unemployment remains extremely high in Kosovo, which has suffered a lot from the economic crisis.
The more radical Vetëvendosje (self-determination) party, which supports a Greater Albania and wants to throw the UN out, has become the third largest party with 12% of the vote and roughly 14 seats. Yet, given that Vetëvendosje is far too radical to be a palatable governing partner for a government which wants to adopt a moderate pro-European image, it will likely be shunned out of government. The PDK will likely remain in power, possibly with the KKR (though the KKR has denied it) or a Serbian party (most likely the liberals), and there is also talk that Thaçi might become President instead of Prime Minister.
The new centrist/liberal Fryma e Re (new spirit), which got a lot of YouTube buzz, ended up doing very poorly with a mere 2.2% of the vote. More proof that YouTube doesn’t win you much seats, let alone elections.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines held elections on December 13. The fight was between Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ left-wing Unity Labour Party, in power since 2001 and the right-wing New Democratic Party which held power between 1984 and 2001. The ULP had won 12 seats to the NDP’s 3 seats in the 2005 election.
Gonsalves is a close partner of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and a member of Chávez’ Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Venezuela has contributed a lot to the government’s main project, the construction of a new airport (part of a bid to increase tourism). Given that the new, larger airport must fit in narrow valleys and hillsides, costs have skyrocketed to $178 million, a full 44% of GDP. Gonsalves, Comrade Ralph, has also cozied up with Libya and Iran, and the opposition has made sure foreign affairs played a major part in the campaign. The realignment with Chávez has perhaps not gone down too well, given that the ULP now has 8 seats to the NDP’s 7. That means his majority would be at risk in any by-election.
President Alexander Lukashenko, avid skiier, held an electoral-type event in Belarus on December 19. The “last dictator in the heart of Europe”, Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and has resorted to fraud and various types of crackdowns to keep power. He was reelected with with 83% in 2006, with the opposition taking 6%. There were protests and a so-called “jeans revolution” afterwards, but it amounted to nothing. Unlike Putin or other post-Soviet dictators, Lukashenko has not built a “king’s party” similar to United Russia and has instead made sure the “legislature” is dominated by ‘independents’ (with a handful of fraud parties, pro-Lukashenko, winning a dozen seats or so). Traditionally Lukashenko has always been very cozy with Russia, but recently both countries fell out with each other and Russian TV recently showcasing Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Yet, there is little sign that Lukashenko is losing his grip on power.
This election, which was called the freest yet (though that isn’t hard), resulted in Lukashenko winning a mere 79.7% of the vote. The against-all option came second with 6.5%, with the closest candidate being the opposition activist Andrei Sannikaŭ who took 2.6%. Turnout was 92.9%, of course. Amusingly, it seems like the Interior Ministry didn’t feel like making up a new set of results this year (hey, it’s the holidays) so it just took the 2004 referendum results (79.4% in favour, 90.3% turnout) and used them for this charade after tweaking it a bit. There have been some protests, but it will likely amount to nothing.