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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07PRISTINA715 2007-10-02 16:08:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina
Cable title:  

KOSOVO: ELECTION OUTLOOK FOR SERBS BLEAK

Tags:   KDEM PGOV PINR SOCI KV UNMIK 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRISTINA 000715 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2017
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PINR SOCI KV UNMIK
SUBJECT: KOSOVO: ELECTION OUTLOOK FOR SERBS BLEAK


Classified By: COM Tina Kaidanow for reasons 1.4 (b), (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: The decision, under heavy pressure from
Belgrade, to opt out of November 17 central elections by
members of moderate the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija
(SLKM), the incumbent Kosovo Serb grouping in the Assembly,
has opened the door for a less-desirable group of Serb
politicians to take their place. With the certain likelihood
of a Belgrade-ordered boycott, most Kosovo Serbs cling to the
false hope of seeing these elections delayed. At the end of
the day, Serb candidates who are willing to participate in
the elections - however unpopular and undesirable they may be
- will likely win seats in the Kosovo Assembly, even with
only a handful of votes from relatives and associates. Key
questions remain on what to do about current Serb-majority
municipalities, where microscopic Serb parties or even
Albanian candidates may claim victory as a result of the
Belgrade-inspired boycott; UNMIK is considering its options.
END SUMMARY.

MODERATES OUT...



2. (C) As a result of heavy pressure from Belgrade, all
incumbent Serb members of the Kosovo Assembly have bowed out
of the upcoming November 17 central elections. Chief among
them is Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serbian List for
Kosovo and Metohija (SLKM) and the highest-profile moderate
Kosovo Serb leader. Also opting out is SLKM member Randjel
Nojkic -- the only Serb officially participating in the
Kosovo Assembly via his chairmanship of the Communities
Committee. The rest of the SLKM list has followed these two
out of the race, including Vesna Jovanovic, Goran Bogdanovic,
and other moderates. Ivanovic and Jovanovic told USOP they
decided not to participate in no small part due to pressure
from Belgrade. Ivanovic told us on two recent occasions that
he had received threats and warnings not to participate, in
addition to being followed by CCK representatives while
traveling around Kosovo. He also reported that potential
SLKM candidates were threatened in the eastern Kosovo
Serb-majority areas of Partes and Ranilug.

...REPLACEMENTS IN



3. (C) In the place of the departed moderates will stand a
group of untried and/or disgraced politicians, none of whom
has a discernible constituency. The most visible among them
is current Minister for Returns Branislav Grbic, head of his
own recently-formed New Democracy Party. Grbic holds little
stature among Kosovo Serbs; his arrest August 7 after a
scuffle with police officers in the Serb enclave of Gracanica
has made him the butt of many jokes. Former Minister for
Returns Slavisa Petkovic, regarded by many as a criminal
after his dismissal by PM Ceku on suspicion of corruption, is
leading his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats of
Kosovo and Metohija into the polls. Joining them on the
registration list are Slavisa Miric and Mihailo Scepanovic,
who have in the past been associates of both Grbic and
Petkovic, but who have never held office and are also widely
distrusted as perceived opportunists merely looking for ways
to empower and enrich themselves and their cronies.



4. (C) The only truly moderate Serb in the race is Slobodan
Petrovic, leader of the tiny Independent Liberal Party (SLS),
who has close ties to Oliver Ivanovic. (Note: This election
is the first for SLS. End Note) Petrovic told us September
24 that he will participate regardless of pressure from
Belgrade, but explained that he and his supporters receive
threats "every day" by hardliners. According to Petrovic,
some of his potential supporters have been told they will
lose their Belgrade-funded jobs if they vote. He vowed to
press on nonetheless, and promised a campaign focused on
economic issues and the benefits of participation in
government for Kosovo Serbs. Petrovic told us that he
expects to have a full list of 17 candidates on the ballot.
SLS Party Secretary Petar Miletic, who will organize the
campaign, told us that the party intends to avoid pressure

PRISTINA 00000715 002 OF 002


with an unobtrusive campaign that relies on word-of-mouth.

NO ONE VOTING



5. (C) While expectations for Serb turnout among most
observers were never high before the election process began,
there is even less reason for optimism now. Politicians,
journalists, analysts, and everyday Serbs have all told us
since September 12 that they expect no Serbs to vote, and
that the list of candidates, in the words of one observer, is
"scandalous." Among Kosovo Serbs, there exists a
widely-held, though specious, belief that the elections will
be delayed. On September 20, both Nojkic and Rada Trajkovic,
head of the Serb National Council (SNC) Gracanica branch,
told us in separate meetings that although neither expects
any Serbs to vote, they do expect a delay in the elections.
On September 27, Budimir Nicic, director of the Caglavica
Media Center, told poloff he assumed the elections would be
delayed; he was disappointed when told that a delay was not
likely. These comments reflect a near-universal hope held by
the majority of Serbs we have spoken with in recent weeks.
Some have admitted that belief in a delay reflects a desire
to put off thinking about the unpleasant reality of final
status and independence.

SPEAKING OUT



6. (C) From some Serbs, none of whom is participating in the
elections, there has been public criticism of Belgrade's
discouragement of participation in Kosovo elections. During
a public debate September 27, Nojkic said several times that
"we (SLKM) are the legitimate representatives of Kosovo Serbs
and not Belgrade." Nojkic and Trajkovic have been publicly
critical of Belgrade's position, along with Novo Brdo mayor
Petar Vasic. On September 25, Oliver Ivanovic gave an
interview to the Serbia-based Evropa Weekly, in which he said
that a Serb boycott would be a mistake, with the price paid
by Serbs in isolated enclaves south of the Ibar; there is
general agreements among the critics that non-participation
can only harm Kosovo Serbs and make an already difficult
situation worse. Ivanovic also told us privately on
September 18 that Belgrade's push for a boycott showed that
the DSS-led government was willing to cause a crisis in
Kosovo before upcoming (but as-yet unscheduled) elections in
Serbia.

COMMENT



7. (C) Given the approach of final status, the evidence of
increasing control exerted over Kosovo Serbs from Belgrade,
and the impending electoral boycott, the SLKM moderates,
mainstays of the Kosovo Serb political landscape since 2001,
may soon disappear from the Kosovo political scene. In their
place, at least some of the candidates that are running will
likely be elected, at least at central level, though the
number of Serb votes cast will be minimal. The key issue
remains of what to do about existing Serb-majority
municipalities where most Serbs refuse to run or vote,
creating the problematic specter of newly-elected Serb or
Albanian parties who insist they won the locality even with
just a modicum of votes. UNMIK is still considering whether
to impose a voter threshhold for municipal elections or
employ some other approach; each bears its own disadvantages,
and it may well be that UNMIK refrains from any decision
until the effect of the Serb boycott is fully clear
post-election. End Comment.
KAIDANOW