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Yugoslavia: Kosovo's Invisible Parliament

Prague, 8 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - In just over two weeks, the Kosovo shadow-state parliament's term will run out, five years after the underground elections that elected it. But the legislature has not even met yet.

Shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova now says that new elections will be held, but he does not have the support of the West for that move.

The shadow parliament was elected on May 24, 1992 in elections considered illegal by Belgrade. Police blocked the one attempt to hold an opening session of the legislature, which took place soon after the vote. Since then, parliamentarians have been meeting in small groups.

Political parties have sought to maintain a consensus among themselves by setting up a multi-party coordination council. But that structure only helped Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo to dominate the shadow-stateUs political life. In 1996 Rugova extended by decree the parliamentUs original four-year term for another year. But the shadow state has failed to pump life into its legislature.

As the deadlock between Pristina and Belgrade continues, opposition parties within Kosovo have insisted that the underground legislators be given more responsibility.

The opposition says that the inability of the shadow-state to form internal democratic structures and debate its strategy contributes to its political failure. Opposition Parliamentary Party leader and human rights activist Adem Demaci has now gained the support of 57 deputies to demand that parliament finally meet. A minimum of 66 out of a total of 130 legislators is, however, needed for that move, and it remains unclear whether Rugova and his party are willing to give Demaci their support.

At a meeting two days ago (May 6) with the U.S. charge d'affaires in Belgrade Richard Miles, Rugova said that he would soon announce a date for new parliamentary and presidential elections. But there is a dispute about who has the right to announce new elections. Demaci argues that only parliament has that authority, but he adds that his party would be willing to participate in a meeting of the multi-party coordination council that could also issue the call for elections.

And Demaci expresses doubts about the feasibility of elections. He has asked rhetorically at a recent press conference: "Who would organize them and who would have the moral right to hold new elections?" But he also said that he may run against Rugova if and when the elections are staged.

The shadow state is now faced with a major problem. It has presented itself over the past five years as the legitimate representative of Kosovo's population, elected by democratic means. But it has failed to inject its most fundamental democratic institution with life.

Furthermore, the exile government of Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi has been in office since 1990 with no accountability to the current legislature. That government was appointed by deputies of the former communist-era parliament and has since then financed the shadow-state's underground education and health systems by collecting taxes from Kosovars working abroad. The government has nonetheless had little influence on the policies of Rugova and his party, and has been constantly plagued by turf wars.

The West is increasingly pressuring the Kosovars to recognize that there is no international support for their independence from Serbia and to tailor their policies accordingly. Richard Miles is reported to have told Rugova that the United States does not support new underground elections. Many other countries, including Albania, have accepted that a solution to the Kosovo issue must be found within the framework of a democratic Serbia and through peaceful negotiations.