Pristina, 18 October 2021 - The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) – “ENEMO preliminarily assesses that the 2021 local elections were generally held in a calm environment, despite tension in the North and uncertainties regarding possible postponement of elections due to COVID-19. However, continuous delays in conducting an electoral reform have led to unclear and conflicting regulations affecting legal certainty. The election administration is highly centralized, with considerable responsibility, burden and power vested in the CEC. Effective oversight mechanisms, especially regarding voter registration and campaign finance, remain to be implemented”, said Pierre Peytier, Head of the Mission to Kosovo for Local Elections of 17 October 2021.
The pre-election period was generally calm and peaceful, aside from tensions in the North, while Election Day was conducted mostly in line with the legislation and international standards. Overall, occasional incidents on the day of voting did not seem to affect the outcome or results of the election.
As Elene Nizharadze, Deputy Head of Mission said “the existing legal framework regulates most important aspects of the election process and can ensure conduct of elections in accordance with most democratic standards. However, a whole range of regulations require revision and update in order to avoid ambiguity, ensure effective conduct of elections and improve the electoral environment. Over the last years, electoral reform has failed several times, preventing the adoption of relevant amendments to the legislation. Accordingly, those issues that require relevant amendments include, but are not limited to electoral dispute resolution, campaign financing and reporting, election campaign and misuse of state resources, voters’ list and voters’ eligibility.”
The work of the CEC was mostly transparent, and its sessions were open to observers. However, the election administration system is highly centralized and most activities and decisions with regards to elections are made by the CEC. MECs have a rather technical role, even in local elections, which puts additional pressure and workload on the CEC Secretariat and its staff.
“ENEMO has not recorded any improvements in the quality of the Voters list compared to previous elections monitored by its election monitoring missions. The Voters List and thereby the Civil Registry on which it is based, represents a major challenge for electoral processes in Kosovo, affecting the work of the CEC and the overall public trust in elections and requires urgent legislative and technical improvements, especially with regards to removing of deceased persons and completing the process of unified street addresses throughout the country” said Bosko Nenezic, ENEMO’s Election Administration/CEC Observer.
ENEMO raises concern over the alleged misuse of administrative resources that is often intertwined with pressure on public employees and vote buying, as it negatively affects voters to freely exercise their right to vote. Additionally, ENEMO notes that the legislative framework does not provide sufficient mechanisms for preventing the misuse of administrative resources.
According to Kristina Kostelac, Election Campaign Analyst “When it comes to campaign finance, ENEMO considers that the framework contains numerous shortcomings in terms of effective supervision, transparency, and does not ensure proper accountability of political parties. Legislative provisions do not regulate types of donations besides financial donations, such as in-kind donations, as well as mechanisms to identify and control goods and services provided for free or below the market value, or paid in cash. The existing legislative framework is not fully in line with international standards for campaign finance, primarily when it comes to GRECO recommendations for campaign finance. ENEMO emphasizes that no mechanism is introduced to effectively monitor and verify the way funds are collected, especially if the amounts exceed the prescribed limit by an individual donor or entity”.
“Kosovo’s media scene is very diverse, despite a lack of transparency regarding media ownership, which has in recent years flourished with online media. Television is the main source of information besides online and social media. Before the pandemic, Kosovo had five daily newspapers with small circulations. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to the production of print issues; there are only online versions. Politicians are largely using social media in political communication, especially Facebook, the most used social network in Kosovo. All ENEMO media interlocutors raised concerns about spreading of disinformation and propaganda in social media and the lack of oversight over social and online media in Kosovo” stated Maja Milikic, Media Analyst.
Complaints adjudication is extensively regulated by the primary and secondary legislation. Regardless of that, the existing legal norms do not fully guarantee the right to effective legal remedy, mostly because of tight deadlines for filing and adjudicating complaints. Legislation is also unclear and could cause misunderstandings regarding the types of complaints and their deadlines.
ENEMO’s international observation mission for the 2021 Local Elections in Kosovo is financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The content of the document is the sole responsibility of ENEMO and does not necessarily represent the position of the donor.