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December 7, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 270
Elections, Demonstrations and Kosovo

Belgrade As A Foreign Capital

by Sqelzen Maliqi (AIM)

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians are continuing to feign an obvious lack of interest for events in Serbia. Earlier they boycotted the federal and local elections in the FRY and Serbia and now they’re watching the crisis caused by the flagrant stealing of the opposition local election victory with a "disinterestedly". All Kosovo Albanian politicians argued that the elections "are their thing, the Serbians which we Albanians have nothing to do with because we have our own elections". They have the same stand on the mass protests in Belgrade although they haven’t voiced it yet: "Their demonstrations are no concern of ours, we have our own demonstrations."

That refusal to have anything to do with political life in Serbia is a demonstration of the ethnic Albanian’s will not to belong and they want confirmation that they are not a part of Serbia.

The fact that Kosovo is still a part of Serbia and that Serbian elections are still being held there is just proof to the Kosovo Albanians that there is a state of annexation and occupation which they blame on both the Serbian regime and the opposition which does not have the solution they want in their programs. They feel that the Serbian regime sometimes advocates more radical stands than the regime. The regime publicly took on obligations imposed by the great powers to work towards a compromise solution on Kosovo. On the other hand, the Serbian opposition sharply criticized the regime’s readiness to compromise and hasn’t voiced a single positive vision for a solution to the problem.

Despite the demonstrative facade of rejection represented by the Bujku Albanian-language newspaper and some radical isolationist circles who see any link with Belgrade as treason, Kosovo’s Albanian population has some elite and middle political circles who regularly read the independent and opposition press from Belgrade and who have a different stand on the crisis in Serbia, a stand that inclines not towards a lack of interest but towards concern and a deep interest in the outcome of that crisis. Those ethnic Albanians are not in favor of the opposition. They have an equal mistrust of the regime and the opposition but they believe that showing a lack of interest in the outcome of the crisis is irresponsible and dangerous to ethnic Albanian interests. Whether they want it or not, Kosovo is part of the area covered by the crisis and the Kosovo Albanians can’t not care whether the fire spreads or is put out before it bursts into a civil war in Serbia itself including Kosovo. There are real fears that the regime will, if things start turning bad, look for salvation in provoking a Serbian-ethnic Albanian war just as it avoided reforms of the system and society in 1991 and 1992 by fanning the flames of war in Croatia and Bosnia.

Many feel they should sound the call for danger and perhaps even mobilization. At the very least, they say they should stay alert and prepare an adequate response to possible Serbian provocation.

Surprisingly, ethnic Albanian political circles don’t seem to take those warnings seriously. In public, there is virtually no sign of concern among ethnic Albanians political circles. Is that because their senses have dulled after years of passive resistance and waiting or are they so sure of foreign guarantees, especially American that no war will be allowed in Kosovo. Are the United States as reliable as Kosovo Albanian politicians think they are?

Ibrahim Rugova and the leadership of his Kosovo Democratic Alliance (LDK) are not showing any sign of concern over the crisis and they’ve spread that feeling among their subordinates. They’re waiting for the outcome and don’t seem to care what it is. If there is a civil war in Serbia they are almost certain that it will be "their, Serbian war"" and that it won’t spread to Kosovo. They don’t even give serious consideration to threats from Serbian radical circles or local militant groups that they will organize "an armed defense" of Kosovo if Belgrade Betrays them or some foreign power intervenes in favor of the ethnic Albanians.

Rugova’s policy of staying out and watching from the sides also favors Milosevic because that leaves Kosovo at the disposal of the regime in the internal power struggle. To Rugova and his elite that means choosing the lesser of two evils: Milosevic’s regime has at least some compromise solution to the Kosovo problem while the opposition "has no clear vision". In his weekly column in the Zeri Albanian language magazine, LDK deputy leader Fehmi Agani said the Serbian opposition "knows what it does not want but doesn’t know what it wants." Agani drew that conclusion from part of Zoran Djindjic’s statement that the ethnic Albanians have become one of the regime’s pillars through their passive policies. Djindjic and other opposition leaders offer nothing but a change of the regime. Their vision of a democratic Serbia includes a gray area - the Kosovo problem. Agani concluded that "the attitude towards Kosovo is one of their greatest weaknesses". Vojislav Kostunica said in his pre-election speeches that a Serbian-ethnic Albanian war would break out in 1998 as a reaction to Milosevic’s betrayal of Kosovo.

So just as the democratic world lent support to Milosevic openly during the latest elections, the Kosovo Albanians are not hoping for a democratic solution which seems to them to be an illusion but on an authoritarian solution for the Kosovo problem. They feel that it’s better to opt for a weakening of the authoritarian Milosevic than on the cacophonic nationalist opposition. Agani made the clearest formulation of the pragmaticisim of current ethnic Albanian policies. He said: "At first glance, the crisis in Serbia seems to be slowing sown and delaying the process of finding a solution to Kosovo. But, by weakening Milosevic’s position the process can’t but increase his obedience to foreign factors and the need to seek a solution to open problems".

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