Will petitions lead to new local elections in the north?

Opština Severna Mitrovica zastava kosovska kosovo

Yesterday morning, in all four northern municipalities, groups of citizens simultaneously attempted to submit a request for the dismissal of the Albanian mayors – the first step toward initiating a petition to replace them. This is the second visible sign of a possible return of Serbs to the Kosovo institutions that they left more than a year ago, after the President of Serbia „asked“ them to do so as soon as possible on October 12, followed the next day by Srpska Lista’s confirmation of their readiness to listen to the president. Although new elections in the north would technically be easier to achieve through the resignation of illegitimate mayors, the Kosovo prime minister and mayors have remained adamant that they will not do so.

The requests were not accepted in the municipalities

During the day, the news that the demands of these citizens for the dismissal of the Albanian mayors in the north were not accepted in any municipality dominated headlines in media reporting in Serbia. While the Serbian side stressed that this is another confirmation of „terror against the Serbs“, Kosovo officials refer to the procedures with unclear answers as to whether or not they were followed in this case.

From North Mitrovica yesterday morning, in front of only two media teams, Kosovo Online and TV Most, Sanja Lazarevic-Krtinić and Milan Milosavljević complained that their request was not accepted. They claim that they adhered to legal procedures, noting that not only the administrative instructions prescribed by the Government of Kosovo were violated, but also the legitimacy of the residents who came to submit the initiative. They underlined that the mayors were illegitimate, and the Serbs were being terrorized and that they refused to be silent any longer.

„This is the most brutal violation of human rights that we could see today here in Kosovoska Mitrovica, actually in the North Mitrovica municipal building. Namely, we, as representatives of ordinary Serb citizens in the north, were unable to submit a simple request at the door of this building. The delivery of a simple request for the recall of the mayor of North Mitrovica failed to reach the office and was eliminated at the very start. This is just an indication of how endangered the human rights of Serbs are on European soil,“ Milan Milosavljević told Kosovo Online and TV Most yesterday morning in front of the North Mitrovica municipal building.

They also revealed that the police checked the IDs of a group of people from Zvecan in the village of Lipa in the same municipality, where Ilir Peci serves as mayor, and that they also failed to submit the same request.

In the meantime, lawyer Veselin Radović confirmed for Kosovo Online that he was unable to submit this request in Leposavic municipality.

Koha reported last night that Ilir Peci confirmed that, in the absence of the chairman of the municipal assembly, he had already accepted the initiative.

Dalibor Galjak from Zubin Potok told Kosovo Online that when he and a group of compatriots went to neighboring Cabra to do the same, where Izmir Zeqiri holds the office of mayor, they were initially told that there was no clerk’s office, and then that they were allegedly given a message from the mayor that „the petition is not in his interest“.

Contrary to this statement, Zeqiri then told Koha that the three signatories „were recommended that the request go through the assembly procedure, as per the Administrative Instructions“, and that he is “not aware” whether the signatories have contacted the president of this assembly.

However, Koha reported later in the evening that Zeqiri told them that he „did not take the initiative seriously“.

Requests were also forwarded to the CEC

CEC spokesman Valmir Elezi confirmed during the day to several media outlets in Pristina that the Central Election Commission received four requests for the removal of the mayor via email, three of which included an already filled-out form, which is provided for by the Administrative Instruction for Citizen Initiative for the replacement of the mayor.

He said that the requests would be processed and that the CEC would inform the public.

The minister informed about the collection of signatures for the petition through the media

The Minister of Local Self-Government, Elbert Krasniqi, soon reacted on Facebook. He claims that he learned about the whole case from the media and that he is aware that a group of citizens is already „collecting signatures“. He confirmed that the Ministry had not been informed about the initiative from the north until that moment, that is, neither the chairpersons of the municipal assemblies nor the formal initiators had done so.

He shared the principles of Administrative Instruction, emphasizing that every citizen or group of citizens with the right to vote in the municipality in question has the right to launch an initiative to remove the president of the municipality and that the request for removal must be signed by at least 20% of voters with the right to vote and must contain all elements and data outlined by this Administrative Instruction.

Reactions: From terror and failing the exam to 1000 dinars

Soon, the first reactions to the news of the rejection of the request for the dismissal of the mayors started arriving.

According to the acting head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petković, the move represents a continuation of the terror against the Serbs.

The Party of Kosovo Serbs also reacted:

„Today, the Government of Kosovo and the international community, above all the Quint countries, failed the test. Despite the will of the Serbs to fulfill one of the EU’s demands to de-escalate the situation and create conditions for new regular elections in the north, things will not change soon. It is also clear to the mentors of Albin Kurti that there is no political will in Pristina to solve the crisis in the north.“

The program manager of the NGO „New Social Initiative“ Milica Andrić-Rakić, summarized „the day behind us in the north of Kosovo“ on Twitter.

„The total collapse of municipal services in the Kosovo system has been laid bare, the fear of local institutions from citizens has been laid bare, the minister revealed that he does not read the instructions he signed himself,“ she wrote.

In a different tone, the leader of the civic initiative „Serbian Survival“ Aleksandar Arsenijević looked back on this day.

„It is interesting how the new hires in the institutions of the Republic of Serbia will manage to collect almost 10,000 signatures for the removal of the mayor in the north. Now, on behalf of Srpska Lista, they went to ask for a request to submit a petition, and that is their trial by fire — and now let them get used to applauding for 1,000 dinars,“ he said.

Among the citizens who were spotted today with the three-member group of formal initiators of the petition were former formally employed workers of Kosovo municipal administrations, before they resigned last year. After leaving Kosovo’s institutions, they started receiving wages from the budget of the Republic of Serbia.

Finally, university professor Nexhmedin Spahiu believes that the refusal to record requests for the removal of Albanian mayors in the north is „probably a consequence of ignorance.“

„They were probably surprised by the submission of signatures because they didn’t expect it, there was no hint that signatures would be collected, so they didn’t know how to deal with that situation. Because it is a sensitive political issue and those who do not really know their competencies and work in their workplaces that do not actually belong to them, they always have to consult with someone in order to provide an adequate answer,“ he told Kosovo Online.

The majority of media outlets, including KoSSev, were not informed that the groups of citizens would be submitting requests for the removal of mayors.

Ugljanin: I am expecting the initiators to come tomorrow at 8 am to the assembly hall

We spoke to the chairman of the assembly of the municipality of North Mitrovica, Nedžad Ugljanin, about what was happening in the municipality of North Mitrovica on two occasions yesterday.

Ugljanin confirmed that several citizens tried to submit a request, and that the municipality did not record the request, without officially revealing the reason. He also emphasized that he did not receive that request, considering that he did not see this group of citizens, nor was it stated in the request that it was addressed to him, which he claims was necessary.

„The initial group, before starting to collect signatures in support of the request, must inform the chairman of the municipal assembly and may inform the CEC“, Ugljanin quoted the Administrative Instruction.

„The request was not sent to me. Nor have I spoken to them regarding the administrative instruction, to which I am referring. They are obliged to inform the chairman about any initiative, or the initiation of a petition initiative, and to submit the request to the chairman. They didn’t do it. It’s their mistake,“ he said in a statement for KoSSev.

Ugljanin confirmed that he was not in the municipal building when the group of citizens came yesterday morning, and that his deputy Katarina Adjančić informed him about it.

„They gathered, they came – the deputy told me. When I arrived, they had already left. I asked the desk clerks what happened, they showed me the request on the phone. I told them it was their duty to accept every request. Whether it is an ordinary citizen or an initiative, it is the duty to record everything. However, when I saw that they did not address the request to me, I expected them to come today.“

When asked why the request was not filed regardless of the fact that it was not addressed to the chairman, Ugljanin could not officially confirm the reason for this oversight of the municipal administration.

Ugljanin found out what was the request, which was not recorded, stated and who the signatories were, based on the photo shown to him by the desk clerk: “In the request, (I’m paraphrasing), they expressed displeasure over the work of the municipality – that the mayor was taking unilateral actions, they asked for his removal, with the mention of the petition, there were three signatories: Sanja Lazarević, Milan Milosavljević and Nikola Lazić.“

Although the request form itself does not include a section where the person the request to be addressed is listed, Ugljanin insisted on the written rule of the instructions, especially since he and the applicants did not meet face to face.

He claims that even if the request – which was not addressed to him as chairman – had been recorded as such, he would have had the right not to respond to it even then, but that he would not have done so.

„I would record the request, in order to start the process,“ says Ugljanin.

At the same time, he emphasized that the situation today would be completely different if the citizens had sent the request to him – either through referral or direct delivery.

He claims that in that case, no one and nothing could prevent him from acting according to the Administrative Instruction and continuing the further procedure by which the petition for the removal of the mayor is actually initiated.

In last night’s statement for KoSSev, Ugljanin denied Koha’s statements published earlier in the day that he „didn’t receive the citizens because they didn’t announce themselves“.

„I made a statement to KTV. I spoke with a KTV journalist, who previously worked at Channel 21, and I told them that my statement was misinterpreted. I gave the same statement to everyone, including you, Kurir, and RTS, that I did not receive any request from the three signatories,“ he told KoSSev.

In the meantime, Koha published his statement from Ugljanin that he „saw the request but did not accept it“. They also quoted Ugljanin’s earlier statement in more detail:

„This is not a good signal for the Serbian majority because you already know that the elections in Serbia are approaching. Those who wanted to file this request desire a little more tension, but the assembly does not deal with these issues.“

Ugljanin confirmed last night that he consulted with the Ministry of Local Government about the matter. He is expecting the citizens to come again tomorrow.

„I will be working from tomorrow. I ordered the heating to be turned on in the assembly hall. So, I’ll be at work and waiting. I’ll wait for them to contact the chairman with a request. We will record their request addressed to me, and forward it to the ministry and the Central Election Commission,“ said Ugljanin.

When asked if he expects this same group of Mitrovica residents to try to submit a request tomorrow, Ugljanin repeats that he will be at work and that if they want to initiate the procedure for initiating a petition to replace the mayor, they will have to do so.

„I will wait and act in accordance with the Administrative Instruction. If they come and announce they want to meet with me, I will receive them in the assembly hall, not in the office, so that we can talk and receive the request. If they need it, I have the Administrative Instructions in front of me. I also ordered the Central Electoral Commission to give me the registration of electorate for the north, so that I have that in front of me and to tell them I will act according to the Administrative Instructions and to advise them on how to wrap up, even though they already know it, their obligations in order to start a petition.“

From withdrawal from the institutions to preparing the request for the removal of the mayor

After leaving the majority of Kosovo institutions at the central and local level in the north in November last year, Serbs conditioned their return to Kosovo institutions with several demands. The key ones were the withdrawal of the special forces of the Kosovo Police from the north, the formation of the ASM, the retention of KM plates, and the release of detained Serbs. These requirements have not been met.

In the meantime, several crises broke out in the north, including two with more serious consequences – injuries and fatalities – on May 29 in Zvecan and September 24 in Banjska. The workers of the Serbian municipalities were left without municipal buildings in Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic, which the new Albanian mayors, elected as a result of the Serb boycott, entered with the help of special forces, and whose removal the Serbs now, 8 months later, demand. The „Northern Brigade“ and „Civil Protection“ were declared terrorist organizations by Pristina. The process of re-registration from KM to RKS is underway, and over 3,000 vehicles have already been re-registered.

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.